OOPS: DECENT TAPAS AND NO MISTAKE
In last year or two, there seems to have been a huge upsurge in interest in the wonders of food from that greatest of all countries, Spain.
From fine dining establishments to small bars it has become almost impossible to walk a hundred yards in London without coming across a place offering “Tapas”
Many of them are pretty dreadful serving slop which any self respecting Spaniard would only consider fit for his perro. But, there are now a number where you can get reasonably echt renditions of regional Spanish dishes even if no one has ever, or will ever, be able to recreate the context in which they are served in Madrid etc.
Places like The Salt Yard (and I suspect its soon to open sibling, Dehesa) and Brindisa offer well prepared versions of classics and, even Barrafina, though hugely over priced and a wank fest for those who think Cal-Pep is the real Spain, has served to raise the bar and people’s expectations.
Best of all is El Faro, way out East in Docklands, where a chef from Santander comes the closest of anyone to making DH feel like we are back where we belong.
So, I am always interested in hearing about new places and, despite the fact it opened in Summer when I was on the road, OOPS was a new one on me.
It has a lot of strikes against it.
Its location is on a dread street opposite Drury Lane Theatre where tourist trap Tratt’s sit next to Curry Slop shops.
It is owned by Italians. Not in itself illegal (we seem to be giving important jobs to lots of Italians these days) but enough to cause a raised eyebrow particularly when you add the fact that it is a roll out of a bar concept from Barcelona run by one of the owner’s family.
Finally, of course, there is the name. A name so wretched you just know it has and will arm a thousand snide quips from food critics everywhere.
Despite all these minuses, I am pleased to say there are many plusses, not least the fact that the food looks and tastes the part.
I was joined by my chum Andrew, marketing whiz for Gonzalez Byass who was pleased to see that they had reacted to previous comments by adding some sherry to an otherwise impressive wine list. He was also pleased to see that, unlike so many other places, the fino we were served was fresh, crisp and served at the right temperature. It worked perfectly with a bowl of spicy olives.
Tapa prices are reasonable and we worked our way though the menu
Well made croquetta with Iberico jamon were creamy with little chewy bits of ham as they should be. Morcilla came with caramelised onions which added sweetness, and the pan con tomate had the prerequisite garlic spike.
Pimientos came topped with a creamy bacalao and the boquerones were fresh and unusually meaty.
A new one on me was Jijas, a dish of fried mince pork shot through with paprika. It reminded me of Xistora, which is not a bad thing and I would definitely order it next time I am here.
There is a separate section on the menu for embutido which shows that they are being serious about the whole thing as, indeed, does the fact that the Jamon de Jabugo displayed the striations which are a sign of hand, rather than machine, carving. The jamon itself was overpriced at £16.50 and though better than most, did not deliver on the promise of its “Gran Reserva” labelling on the menu.
Andrew was not drinking bar the sherry, which was, of course, professional interest, so I drank a single glass of inky wine from Navarre which with tea and coffee brought the bill to a not insubstantial £70 including service which was on the ball, though unhampered by too many other customers. The price, again reflects my ability to over order and the location. A meal for two here, with wine should come in at about £60
OOPS, despite its name and location, is definitely worth a visit. It serves well made, attractive versions of Spanish favourites in an area where getting a meal without losing your soul or your life savings in becoming increasingly hard.
As a post-script to the meal, Andrew suddenly produced a bottle of gin and plonked it on the table. I almost hugged him.
Gonzalez Byass, it would appear, are now distributing the only gin, apart from Beefeater, actually distilled in the capital. This is a fine example of the genre with rich notes of citrus complimenting the required juniper. Also, because gardenia is used as one of the botanicals, it takes on a pleasing blue hue which makes it look pretty enough for girlies in the clear glass bottle.
I have the bottle at home now and plan to do a bit of a taste test over the weekend in the form of a decent martini (something almost impossible to find as I travel)
Well worth seeking out for that last minute Christmas gift.