Tapas at the Brunello Lounge

My first visit to a “Lounge” was back in 2013 when I went to the Portvio Lounge in Gloucester. I didn’t know at the time that it was part of a chain, but since then I have visited a few others.

The Brunello Lounge in Weston-super-Mare opened in 2017 and I have visited it quite often, usually for breakfast or for coffee.

Recently we decided to pop in for a drink and a lunchtime snack. It was rather busy, but we decided to queue. They had some tables free but we were warned that there was a thirty minute wait for food, which we accepted.

We placed our order at the bar and waited. We did think it might be a “wagamama” thirty minutes, in other words it would be closer to fifteen minutes. However in the end it took fifty minutes for our food to arrive, by which time we had drunk our drinks, which had infant arrived quite promptly.

We had ordered some fries and a selection of tapas. We got three dishes, patatas bravas, crispy squid and buttermilk fried chicken.

The best of the three dishes was the patatas bravas. This was cubes of deep fried potato served with a spicy tomato sauce. The potatoes were nice and crispy, well cooked and I enjoyed the tomato sauce. In my opinion the crispy squid was overcooked, it was certainly crispy, but it was very very crispy and dark as well. The buttermilk chicken was nuggets of crispy chicken served with a chipotle mayonnaise. The mayonnaise was nice, the chicken was a little dry.

Overall I think these could have been three great dishes, but the final result was not as good as they should have been. One was really good, the others needed a little more refinement. I did wonder if the volume of orders was causing problems in the kitchen. In the past the food we’ve had at the Brunello Lounge has been excellent.

Having said all that I might go again and try the tapas again.

La Tasca, no hay amor más

Though my plan to celebrate my anniversary with dinner at the Second Floor Bristol, in Harvey Nichols was scuppered by my wife who decided no matter how nice the restaurant looked and how interesting the menu, she didn’t want to have a celebrationary dinner in an upmarket BHS or Primark! Anyway the Second Floor Bristol is a really stupid name for a restaurant. Okay so it’s on the second floor, I get that. It’s in Bristol, I get that. Why though is it named after where it is? Are they so confident about the food and the location, that they don’t think it needs a proper name? Well after my wife turned down this choice of mine, I needed to choose somewhere else.

So having to make a quick decision, I decided on La Tasca. My last few visits have been okay and I do like tapas. The end result wasn’t as good as I remember and certainly I don’t think we’ll go again. It wasn’t awful, it was just okay, nothing special and I do think that the restaurant could have done a lot better.

As it was a Sunday they had their Foolish Feast special, so we went with that. I chose that, partly to be cost effective, but in the main it was easy. I almost laughed at the photograph on the back of the menu, which appeared to be of an authentic Spanish tapas bar and thought, now that would be wonderful, however I knew that in reality the stuff we were going to get would be nice, but it wouldn’t be genuine in the way a proper Spanish tapas bar can be. I wonder why now, why we even went in there…

As we discussed the menu, we both realised that a Greek meze place would probably have been a much better choice, but it was late, we had sat down, we had ordered coffee. A bit too late to do anything then.

La Tasca

The special was £14.95 per person. You start off with the Tabla Especial – to share between two Serrano ham, bread and mixed olives, served with an extra-virgin olive oil & sherry vinegar dip.

Good ham, nice olives and measly amount of bread…. really you needed a bit more bread than you got.

The Paella Valenciana ‘La Tasca’ with chicken, Galician mussels, king prawns, squid, lemon wedges, char-grilled aubergine and peppers; could have been so good, but was let down because it was reheated. As a result the rice was stodgy, the squid was chewy, as were the mussels. I can appreciate that it can’t be easy to cook paella for these kinds of menus, however either do it properly or don’t do it all! Reheating paella is not how it is done in Spain. It kinds of puts me off going to La Tasca and ordering a “proper” paella in case that is a reheated dish. The flavour was okay, but the textures let this dish down.

We ordered one of everything and waited for it to arrive.

This is one dish which really you shouldn’t get wrong, it’s a really simple dish. Patatas Bravas is deep fried potato, with spicy tomato sauce. However they did a bit of a botch job. The potato wasn’t crispy enough and some of it was well undercooked too.

I did enjoy the Albóndigas, beef & pork meatballs, in a rich, slow-cooked tomato sauce. They had good texture, nice flavour and a good sauce. Well it was a good sauce until we worked out that it tasted like the tomato sauce in tinned spaghetti hoops!

I also enjoyed the Croquetas de Pollo. These were hand-crumbed with chicken breast and served with roasted garlic mayonnaise. They were crisp on the outside and lovely and soft on the inside. They melted in the mouth and had a really nice flavour.

The Spinach Tortilla, a spinach omelette served with a spicy red pepper tapenade and roasted garlic mayonnaise was okay, but I did feel it lacked flavour.

Apart from been a little too salty, the Pescado Blanco Frito which was deep-fried white fish, in a special-recipe San Miguel batter, served with homemade paprika & roasted garlic mayonnaise and lemon. The batter was crisp and crunchy, but I did feel that the fish needed more natural flavour. You really needed to dip it in the mayonnaise.

As you might expect you couldn’t really mess up the Baby Leaf Green Salad, served with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil dressing on the side.

Overall there were some really nice dishes that we had at the table and alas there were some that really didn’t work out very well. I think it might be a while before I go to La Tasca again, I really do need to find a proper local Spanish tapas bar.

Aceitunas Manzanilla y Couchillo

This is from the new Tapas range from Tesco. A selection of manzanilla and couchillo olives dressed in oil and parsley.

These were very nice, certainly more flavour than the standard green and black olives you usually find in supermarkets.

Not quite…

La Tasca

A few weeks ago I went to La Tasca in Leeds for meal with some friends. It was a Monday evening, so not the busiest evening to go out. The place was reasonably empty, so expectations were high that things would be good and that we would get some good service….

Well…

Not quite…

Though our waiter was quite enthusiastic about taking our orders for drinks and food, the service we had afterwards left a lot to be desired.

Tapas

Our initial order of tapas dishes, seemed to take a long time to arrive and when they did, they were warm, as though they had been left somewhere for a while before they arrived at our table. Now I know that authentic tapas are just warm, so it could be argued that they were suppose to be like that… We had ordered two selections of tapas from the menu, and two additional dishes. The second selection arrived just as we were finishing the first. These were hot and straight from the kitchen.

As for the other two dishes, well we had to ask for them, and it would appear that they had gone to a different table! So our final two dishes arrived somewhat later.

So what of the tapas themselves. Well the calamari was nice, fresh with a crunchy batter, but slightly let down by an excessive sprinkling of sea salt. If you brushed that off, then it was quite nice. There was a nice creamy chicken dish that I liked, but no idea what it was or the name. I did like the deep fried anchovies, think of whitebait but with a stronger flavour. Alas this was one of our missing dishes and arrived last and I was quite full at this point. To be honest I enjoyed most of the dishes and they had flavour and texture. Some things were very good, some were good and some I know could be a lot better. For example the “sample” paella dishes are not paella as I know it should be, but then maybe one day, I should just order paella at La Tasca to see what they do with their standard paella. The fritata was okay, but not sure if that was just me, or it’s suppose to be like that! At the end of the day I have had much better tapas dishes from La Tasca and as a result I was slightly disappointed.

However as with any “dining experience” it’s not just about the food (though the food is important) it is also the atmosphere, the ambience and the service.

Well the people I was with were excellent company and I really enjoyed the evening, so from that perspective it was great.

The service on the other hand was, well variable, sometimes good, sometimes downright awful. An example, very few deserts were available as they had run out of vanilla ice cream… Now this was in the centre of Leeds, a Tesco Express was just around the corner, was it really too much effort for someone to get a tub? Well knowing how these chains work I suspect that if they did, there would be hell to pay from senior management over staff using non-standard ingredients. I also guess that they wouldn’t be able to re-claim the cost of the ingredients. Yes processes and guidelines are in place there to make sure the business runs smoothly, but when those processes fail, as in this case the supply of vanilla ice cream, there must be contingency plans in place to give staff the “freedom” to improvise to ensure that the customer can get what they would like. As in our case, so that the customer can get the desert they want without finding out that none are available because the supple chain failed, and procedures stop improvisation (by getting in some ice cream) to fulfill that need.

So I did indeed have a good evening out, the company was excellent, the food was good and yes I would go again to La Tasca, well maybe not in Leeds.

Cooking Chorizo

If you have eaten chorizo in the past, either the thinly sliced stuff you get in packs next to the ham, or the whole chorizo sausage that you are finding more and more in most supermarkets, then you probably will find that cooking chorizo really should be on your shopping list.

Now this is cooking chorizo and really does need to be cooked. I have been using it in a few recipes recently, in the main paella, but also chorizo frito al vino.

My method is to cut the chorizo into slices about quarter of an inch thick. Fry in a large frying pan until sealed on both sides and just starting to go a little crispy. At this point I add the red wine (Spanish red wine is best, but I am sure you can use any good red wine).

Cook the chorizo for a few more minutes. Serve as part of a tapas or with salad. The red wine with the chorizo makes a wonderfully spicy sauce which you can dunk warm soft bread into.

Sainsbury’s cooking chorizo comes as smaller whole sausages and these can be cooked whole, but will take a little longer.

Another recipe was to add it to lentils. In a large frying pan, saute some diced onions, pepper and pancetta. I added some stock and tomato puree and simmered for about ten minutes before adding the sliced cooking chorizo. This I cooked for a further five minutes.

The next stage was to add the lentils, I usually use tinned green lentils. I finished the dish with some basil, though parsley would have been better.

Another way I use chorizo is to add it to a tray of roasting vegetables to add texture, flavour and spice.

In many ways cooking chorizo is a versatile ingredient that is in many ways much easier to use than tradition air dried chorizo. I would air caution though, make sure it is proper cooking chorizo and not chorizo style sausages otherwise you will be disappointed.

Chorizo Frito al Vino

I do like this dish which is simply the spicy Spanish sausage, sautéed in red wine.

I have started using Tesco’s Cooking Chorizo which is not as hard (or as chewy) as the traditional dried chorizo which you can buy from most supermarkets.

Just a note you are buying the whole sausage and not the thinly salami style sliced version.

My method is to cut the chorizo into slices about quarter of an inch thick. Fry in a large frying pan until sealed on both sides and just starting to go a little crispy. At this point I add the red wine (Spanish red wine is best, but I am sure you can use any good red wine).

Cook the chorizo for a few more minutes.

Serve as part of a tapas or with salad. The red wine with the chorizo makes a wonderfully spicy sauce which you can dunk warm soft bread into.

Tapas

Cooked my own tapas, with variety of dishes.

Pan fried squid and prawns: Simple slice the squid into rings and fry on a hot pan with a splash of olive oil. The prawn, I butterflied and again just cooked in a hot pan.

Patatas Bravas – Fried potato, topped with a spicy tomato sauce. I made the tomato sauce myself, onions, tinned tomatoes, a hint of chilli and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The potatoes, I cheated and used frozen fried potatoes baked in the oven.

Chorizo Frito al Vino: Remember to buy the whole sausage and not the thinly salami style sliced version.

Chorizo

My method is to cut the chorizo into slices about quarter of an inch thick. Fry in a large frying pan until sealed on both sides and just starting to go a little crispy. At this point I add the red wine (Spanish red wine is best, but I am sure you can use any good red wine).

Cook the chorizo for a few more minutes and then serve.

Rosemary flavoured roasted chicken breast: Simple roast a chicken breast on a bed of rosemary with a splash of olive oil.

Overall some delicious dishes.

Photo source.

Chorizo Frito al Vino




I do like this dish which is simply the spicy Spanish sausage, sautéed in red wine.

I have started using Tesco’s Cooking Chorizo which is not as hard (or as chewy) as the traditional dried chorizo which you can buy from most supermarkets.

Just a note you are buying the whole sausage and not the thinly salami style sliced version.

Chorizo

My method is to cut the chorizo into slices about quarter of an inch thick. Fry in a large frying pan until sealed on both sides and just starting to go a little crispy. At this point I add the red wine (Spanish red wine is best, but I am sure you can use any good red wine).

Cook the chorizo for a few more minutes.

Serve as part of a tapas or with salad. The red wine with the chorizo makes a wonderfully spicy sauce which you can dunk warm soft bread into.

Photo source.

Tapas for a Tenner

I have been meaning for ages to visit La Tasca. I really like tapas and I really wanted to try their paella – more often then not I am very disappointed with the paella that is offered at other places.

So today I happened to be in Regent Street and popped into La Tasca for a (very) late lunch.

I decided to do the Tapas for a Tenner deal. This deal allows you to eat as many tapas as you want for just £10! The deal varies across the UK, but here it was available until 5pm, whilst in Bristol it is available from 5pm!

Tapas for a Tenner

I went for six dishes in the end.

Patatas Bravas – Fried potato, topped with a spicy tomato sauce.

A Spanish classic and a tapas favourite. The tomato sauce was spicy, but rather too salty for me. Whilst the potatoes were soft and not crispy, slightly oily. A bit of a disappointment for a dish which should be relatively simple to make. It felt like it had not been freshly cooked and left around for a while. For me tapas should be freshly cooked.

Paella de Pescado – Paella with squid, prawns and mussels, served with lemon.

This was a well flavoured dish, but again like the patatas bravas did not taste fresh, felt like it had been cooked a good hour earlier.

Calamares a la Andaluza – Deep-fried rings of squid, served with roasted garlic mayonnaise and lemon.

Now this is a dish which again is simplicity, but oh was so wrong. The rings were overcooked so were rubbery in texture. I got the feeling (and I may have been wrong) that these were not freshly prepared, but came from a packet or even the freezer. Good calamari should be cooked using fresh squid. Alas they covered the calamari in salt – if I wanted salt I would have asked for it.

Chorizo Frito al Vino – The spicy Spanish sausage, sautéed in red wine.

This in my opinion was perfect, great chorizo cooked in red wine, bursting with meaty flavours and with a great depth provided by the red wine. This one I would have had second helpings of.

Selección de Embutidos – A selection of cured Spanish meats.

Can you get this wrong, no, and La Tasca didn’t. Three slices each of three different kinds of cured Spanish meats.

Paella Valenciana – A Valencian-style paella, with mixed seafood and chicken.

A different paella to the first tapas, but a similar story.

Overall I kind of had what I expected. La Tasca is a chain (not a family run restaurant) and probably cooks to a system. I did enjoy the meal (despite the disappointing food) and the ambiance and the atmosphere was pleasant, and you have to remember this was a very busy Regent Street.

Will I go again, possibly if I was stuck and there was nothing else to choose from.