It’s taken us almost a year to get to La Mancha on Chiswick High Road, and almost as long to write-up this blog, but on a Saturday night a few months ago, we went along with friends to celebrate a birthday. Salvatorre is the owner of this small but perfectly formed tapas bar and when he decided to downsize his Putney branch, he chose his home town of W4 to set it up in August last year. You can eat around the world these days in this part of town, but since the ‘tapas’ chain Le Tasca ceased to trade we’d been denied anything remotely Spanish. Now this busy, buzzy restaurant with a nod to Don Quioxte is pulling in the punters with its well-priced, tasty Galician plates of loveliness.
We arrive early and our friends late so we start to order from the menu. We begin with some spinach croquettes with a hint of pine nuts (£5.50), a good filling with a decent crisped crumb.
Their Pimientos de Padron (£5.95) took me right back to Barcelona and the glass of fabulously dry sherry Mr ordered was incredible. I threw caution to the wind and ordered Sangria. It arrived in an understated wine glass without fruit salad but with a slice of orange and thinly cut cored apple, looks deceived, it was fabulous.
Our friends arrive, along with the guest whose birthday we were celebrating, and the food ordering intensifies for our table of six.
Two plates of garlic-infused tomatoes on crisply toasted olive-oil-smothered bread (£3.50) arrive and we start the feast, holding back, cutting dishes in half to share, when it’s the piece that’s wanted.
Next up are two plates of 15 month aged Serrano ham (£8.95) and the meat is beautifully pink and fatty, it leaves the plate as quickly as it arrives.
The anchovies in olive oil and garlic (£6.50) were delicious (I’m told), they looked good, and super fresh, but I still can’t appreciate the flavour of the anchovy but there were plenty on the table who did.
A little over-salted for me but the Tortilla Espanola (£5.20) was dense and full of potato chunks.
I’m really not a huge fan of Patatas Bravas (£4.95) unless these spicy spuds come straight from the oven or fryer, crisp and golden. These had been crispy at some point but the reheating had knocked the crunch straight out of them, the sauce was regulation spicy though.
Light and crispy rings of squid were tasty but a little on the pricey side at (£7.95).
A meat course followed with Jarretes De Pollo Picante Chicken drumsticks (£5.95) cooked, skin-on, in garlic, lime and chilli sauce. I have to say I didn’t try these, because I was rather slow to dig in, the portion demolished in little time.
Our char-grilled lamb cutlets (£3.95 each) were absolutely delicious, small, sweet, juicy lamb had taken on the stripe of the grill and cooked pink.
The best dish of the night for me was the Espada Chargrilled swordfish which came in a garlic wine sauce, (£8.95) with a side helping of nursery-soft mash. Beautifully tender pieces of what is normally a meaty steak were beaten thinner and I could have eaten a whole plate and more.
A very close second was the Restaurant’s signature slow-cooked crispy pork belly with apple sauce, Cochinillo Asado (£9.95) found on the Specials menu. When the crunchy crackling is broken, it revealed a beautifully cooked, tender meat which, when added to the pork sauce puree, was heaven.
Some of our party drank the Barcelona brewers ‘Estrella Inedit‘, the beer by Ferran Adria which comes in a really attractive black wine bottle, sealed with a cap lid. It’s a barley malt and wheat beer with hints of coriander, orange peel and liquorice. Quite cloudy as you’d expect from a wheat beer it’s served chilled and in wine glasses. It’s been designed to work with citrus salads, salty seafood and vinegar based sauces, along with bitter vegetables like artichoke. It’s lightly carbonated and doesn’t bloat the drinker. We also enjoyed a bottle or two of the Spanish Prado Rey Roble Ribera del Duero (£24.50) which went down a storm.
Tony (the birthday boy) left with a bottle of freshly foil-wrapped Cava but it’s this kind of sentiment that will continue to win Salvatorre loyal customers – that and the great food.
We were guests of the Shackletons – thank you for a great evening.
It’s fair to say that in the time between my visit and writing this blog up there’s been a change of chef – the former retired – and so a change of menu. Some of the dishes I’ve written about remain, some have gone but the prices I’ve taken from the current menu. I haven’t been back to sample it but since there’s a severe lack of Spanish food in this area, I’ll be back when my yearnings for tapas return.
Regulars to La Mancha get rewarded with a ‘Friends of’ card – more details here
La Mancha, 142 Chiswick High Road, Chiswick, London W4 1PU
0208 994 6816