I’m in London and fancied something new, as in recently opened. I found Rambla, Covent Garden in Soho – a Catalan Tapas restaurant. Victor Garvey, owner and chef, was in the kitchen that evening, a Wednesday evening – so I’m hopeful that the food was as good as it could be.
I made a telephone reservation for one, the online booker didn’t offer me anything, which can happen a lot, a call never hurts. The maître d’ was super chilled our and friendly. I requested a table for one at 9pm, “no problem” – I was offered the bar and if a table became free, she would offer me that. I asked if it would fit my laptop – no worries. I couldn’t say no to such politeness, especially as I actually managed to get in.
It’s small, it’s loud, it’s informal and I didn’t even have to say my name, they’d spotted the lone diner – great service.
My seat at the bar, which surrounds the open kitchen was perfect for my relaxed visit – the entire place in fact is relaxed. The music is loud and funky, like the food and people. The decor was warm and rather minimal, which focused on the kitchen, for all to see.
From my vantage point I could see how they were cooking some of the dishes from their ‘good’ sized menu. By that, I don’t mean big, because big menus usually mean poor food.
The menu clearly defines the types of dish available – meat, fish, cured etc. The vegetarian options are excellent, of which there is an excellent range. The wine list is equally simple and awash with Catalan wines.
They served me water without asking, which was great, but did take a while to come to me to take my order, during which time they served me someone else’s dish. One of the front of house came to me not long after and asked if I was being served. I think there was a small communication error rather then anything more spurious. The waiting staff, in actual fact were very good – polite and attentive. I think I had a few of them round me at one point, clearing, pouring drinks etc – they seem like a tight team.
Tapas, it’s always three dishes. I asked how many would be suitable, it was three – so standard tapas rules apply. My initial order choices missed the mark though. They have a raw cod dish – that had run out, as had my other choice, grilled octopus, which prompted a quick run through of about five dishes not available at that time. Let’s put this down to a Wednesday at 9pm and not getting in as much as the weekend, but, it was rammed and people were still coming in, and being turned away.
My three dishes were:
- Cold roasted vegetable salad – Escalivada £6.50
- Mussels and clams steamed in white wine with Serrano ham, spider crab butter and toasted ciabatta £7.00
- A couple of Butifarra Negre (Catalan pork sausage) sliders, which came with green apple slaw, Nevat cheese on brioche buns £5.00
I had a couple of glasses of white wine which were £5.50 a piece.
I would say that’s nicely priced, especially for the location – was it any good though?
The salad was finely chopped, almost like mush, which was served in four distinct lines, so you could either sample each one individually or go across and try all four, or any combo you liked. The four roasted vegetables were tomatoes, aubergine, red pepper and onion – all seasoned with sea salt flakes and a gentle vinaigrette.
To look at, it didn’t look amazing – definitely different, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was packed, and I mean rammed with flavour. The aubergine nearly made me do a little wee in my pants – I was gutted when I’d finished, I tried to make it last as long as possible, but it’s tapas – it took all my willpower not to lick the plate. If you see this, order it – don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
The shellfish next, I don’t know what they were doing back there, but that was the same as the salad, bursting with flavour. The liquor, in which a pile of perfectly steamed plump mussels and clams rested was the real star of the show. I don’t each much bread, but I ate one of the two pieces and drenched it in the sauce. I used a spoon to baste the bread, which resulted in good dusting of narly Serrano ham resting up on it. Only willpower, mine was hardcore that night, kept me from eating the other slice – I did however, tip the bowl to get as much as possible on the spoon.
Finally the pork sliders, two of em. These didn’t compare to the other two and I would argue not a traditional Tapas option. Switching out beef for pork was a nice touch and the burgers themselves were pretty good actually. I felt that after the previous two, these were slightly blander, drier and just not as much fun. The bar had been set very high though.
All in all, a cracking place and you should book, you will need to. The pricing is excellent, the food quality, forgetting they’d run out of stuff was bonkers good, food porn.
Total bill for three tapas dishes and two glasses of wine £29.50.
We paid the bill to keep it real.