Given that it's one of the most popular tapas places beside one of the most popular markets in London, I was surprised to get a table without queuing. "Brindisa?" a friend remarked when I told her about it, "isn't that the place which is always packed?" Actually, that's true unless you turn up at an ungodly 11am for a bout of tapas brunch. You'll be sure to get a seat even on a brilliant Saturday morning.
Having read reviews on Brindisa about how it's the closest to an authentic Spanish tapas bar in London, we were fully expecting the hustle and bustle of the tapas bars we checked out in Spain. Unlike the typical restaurant setting, the tapas bar is relatively chaotic; you could be picking at your tapas at the bar counter, tall tables with bar stools, standard tables with proper chairs, alfresco and even on an extended window ledge. And Brindisa is all that.
With several metallic ceiling fans, a long mirror on one end with a prominent picture of black pigs marching across a plain, and a fully Spanish staff hurrying about, you could be very well be in a fancy tapas bar in Madrid.
Black squid rice (£6.50) is the mandatory stomach filler in any tapas meal and that was exactly what we got. Unlike any of the tapas places that we have been to in London, Brindisa's black squid rice came with a whole chunk of squid sitting nicely on top of the rice. The lightly battered squid reminded me of the one we had at Morito. We were beginning to wonder whether that was all the squid that we got until I found bits of chopped up squid mixed into the rice. Nice.
The squid though battered retained much of its chewiness. Rice was wetter than expected but the introduction of a spoonful of alioli made all the difference. The tinge of mustard coupled with the squid ink is indeed a winning combination.
A staff was busy slicing chorizo behind the bar and we just had to order some. Iberico de bellota chorizo (£5.25) was a good size serving. The acorn fed chorizo came with a small bowl of tubular biscuits (I'm sure they have a more elegant name) that provided the crunch with the chorizo slices.
Our one of five-a-day came in the form of Catalan spinach (£5.75). Lightly tossed in the pan, it came with pine nuts and raisins. Absolutely refreshing, it was a palate cleanser indeed.
Personally, I don't mind offals or any animal body parts. But I do draw the line at tongues, brains and reproductive organs. Brindisa's sautéed chicken livers (£5.90) came with manzanilla and vanilla was accompanied by bruschetta and onion slices. A very presentable tapas dish with a full body taste. Tender chicken liver does go well with slightly damped bruschetta.
To wind up the light meal, we had arroz con lecha (£3.50). The cold rice pudding came with a thin layer of cinnamon on top and I suspect it is one of those dessert that is an acquired taste (think rice and milk) Served in a small chilled metallic pan, it could very well be the thing to have for that one hot English summer day in the entire year.
Prominently located at the entrance to the Borough Market, Brindisa is no doubt one of the most popular restaurants in the area for Londoners and tourists alike. The next time you drop by Borough Market, I would suggest that you give the banger rolls a miss and save your stomach for some delectable tapas at Brindisa. In case you are wondering, the thickly sweet olorosa abocado alameda (£4.75 per glass) goes really well with meat tapas.
The Toby Carvery, South Croydon
9 hours ago