If there’s one type of cuisine I’m guaranteed to always get excited about, it’s tapas. A childhood of sunny Spanish holidays seems to have ingrained it in my blood and if there’s a new tapas popping up somewhere, it’ll shoot straight to the top of my (ever expanding) list of places to try. Such was the case with Rambla.
Now there’s no shortage of tapas restaurants in Soho, what with the well established Barrafina and my personal favourite Copita so Rambla really was going to have it’s work cut out to compete with what is a well established and already crowded market. But, tapas is the ultimate social food and that is what Soho is all about, meeting friends for food and drinks and having a good time, perhaps there will always be a place for another tapas restaurant.
We arrived at Rambla smack bang in the middle of gay pride and the streets outside were heaving, however the interior of Rambla was relatively calm in comparison. The vibe is very casual, there’s a large bar around the kitchen and a selection of scattered tables and benches. You get the impression that anything goes. Staff were relaxed (if perhaps a little weary from the hectic day they’d obviously been having) and the atmosphere was welcoming. With our sangria order in, we settled into choosing what we wanted to try from a seriously delicious sounding menu. With a couple of recognisable tapas dishes but plenty of new things to pique my interest I definitely found it difficult to choose. Whilst the waiter recommended around 5 dishes between two people, we ended up ordering seven, which I think was about right for a pair of diners who were particularly hungry.
I was slightly worried that our table seemed really tiny considering we were about to be bombarded with tapas dishes but the food arrived thick and fast, in no particular order and the wait staff were pretty prompt at clearing plates we’d finished with just in time for the next to arrive.
We began with padron peppers, one of my favourites which was a great dish to start off with as, like olives, they’re a good little snack to nibble on whilst you getting settled in to chatting over drinks. The portion was generous and they didn’t skimp on the salt. Top marks.
This was swiftly followed by a cured tuna dish which was served with a fennel and rocket salad, crumbled pistachios and a herb vinaigrette. Delicious. The tuna was soft and melted like butter in the mouth and whislt there was a lot going on on the plate, it really sung out as the hero of the dish, managing not to be overpowered by the sharp citrus and herby flavours.
A little bit of theatre followed this in the form of a chorizo dish we’d ordered which arrived on the table in flames. There was a slight confusion as one waiter told us to let the flames cook the sausage for a little while but eat them before the flames went out and then another waitress told us we should wait for the flames to die out completely. All the same the chorizo was tasty. It was served with two slices of toast topped with caramelised onions and alioli which are all flavours I love, but I’m not quite sure what the connection was to the chorizo. A tasty dish, but it’s definitely all about the drama as opposed to a well thought out balancing of flavours like the rest.
The two stand out dishes for me were the grilled octopus and the quail drumsticks. Meaty chunks of octopus were served with a tarragon flavoured alioli, this would be a great introduction to octopus for anyone who’s yet to try it. The Boyfriend who can be a little squeamish about tentacles and things, was tucking into this one with gusto. In contrast to the light herby flavours of the octopus dish I think I loved the quail for all of the opposite reasons. In a dish that could be so easy to overcook and turn dry, the little quails legs were so juicy. Wrapped in pancetta and served with a pomegranate dipping sauce, the flavours of the dish were rich and bold. Tapas is all about trying different things and small dishes need to make a big impression to stand out so these two dishes for me really ticked all of the boxes.
I ordered the prawns with alioli from the specials menu which were quite possibly the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen! Whilst they looked a little plain when presented to us, the meat was so sweet and juicy, they really didn’t need more than just a little bit of dipping sauce on the side as the ingredients spoke for themselves.
Despite being pretty much done with our feast, The Boyfriend decided he couldn’t possibly leave without trying the lamb chops and ordered a plate of those too. Two juicy chops turned up, flavoured with rosemary. I’m not a huge fan of chops as they can often be dry and I feel liek you don’t get much meat for your money, but Rambla proved me wrong with theirs.
All in all I couldn’t really fault any of the dishes. Nothing was lacklustre and everything was cooked to show off what seemed like a real array of top quality ingredients. Staff were friendly and helpful, although I do think they forgot about one of our dishes, but it did appear promptly after a quick reminder. My only qualm with Rambla is that it just seemed a little pricey for tapas, with many dishes being priced between £10 and £15. The online menu is not up to date and many dishes were more expensive in the actual restaurant. Perhaps this is what you need to do to meet margins in an expensive area with an already crowded tapas scene, however I can’t help but think if the price point was lower I’d be more willing to forgo my tried and tested Soho tapas favourites and make Rambla a more regular haunt. Saying this, the food was excellent and I would recommend it if you’re willing to spend a little more.