It’s 11.50am when we amble through Borough Market and rock up at Brindisa, snagging an outdoor table to soak up the atmos like the faux-civilised folk that we pretend to be. The first ones in, we look a little tourist-keen to be honest, but ten minutes later, when the queue for a seat’s snaking out of the front door, I sip my lunchtime cerveza smugly.
There was no real intention to visit Brindisa, it just sort of appeared before us in a timely manner. But, given it’s a name that’s been rattling around my skull for the best part of two decades thanks to its status as a bastion of proper tapas, this felt opportune. That said, we’ve apparently got Brindisa to thank for the whole no reservations thing. Gracias for that one, guys.
With all of the lockdown kerfuffle about sourdough, a few slices of the normal stuff was a reminder that bread can just be a modest and tasty staple to dredge through dishes, or balance a lump of cheese on, without it trying to steal the show. This simple but effective Pan de la Casa knew its place, so we got two lots of it. (£3.50)
It was at its best, arguably, when deployed as the vessel to transport fat, fleshy prawns in their sizzling garlic oil from pan to mouth (£9.50). Equally good, though, when wrapped around a cube of fried potato and scooped through a puddle of piquant tomato sauce. (£6)
(And while we’re here, a note on our old amigo the Patatas Bravas. Best, always, served in the way it was here at Brindisa, allowing the spud to maintain maximum levels of crisp and crunch without being slathered in the wet stuff.)
Once you’ve popped it’s hard to stop with a clutch of decent croquetas. One is never enough, and the temptation to keep going until you’ve scarfed at least a dozen more is strong. These were excellent examples of the genre. Crunchy on the outside, molten within and down in two bites if you’re feeling polite, or one if you don’t care who’s watching. (£6.50)
Before the slew of restaurants they’ve now got draped across the capital, Brindisa made its mark, all those years ago, as a trusted supplier of the good stuff from Spain. In a charred and rust-tinged chorizo, soft and salty where it’d been spliced down the middle, such provenance shows. It needed no more than a fistful of greenery and some plain potatoes as backdrop. I should really have nipped into their shop to procure a couple for home use, or more accurately, to neck on the train home. (£9)
At 12 quid my choice of Galician octopus – the tender but meaty chunks peppered with sharp capers and dressed with good oil and smoky paprika – proved to be money well spent, partly because nobody else wanted any but ultimately down to it being a well-executed and plentiful plateful. And yes, a bit different.
And in their perceived simplicity a couple of chicken thighs, grilled until crozzled of skin and served with a thick romesco sauce with a smattering of crunchy hazelnuts across the top, summed up the whole meal (£12). Yes, yes, you’ve heard all the waffle before about using good ingredients and not faffing around with them too much, I know. But it’s precisely what Brindisa do, and have been doing, for ages.
Now, at long last and down to a Northern disinclination to pay 8 quid for some dodgy ‘street food’ round the corner, I’ve sampled it for myself. Just the 17 or so years after everybody else.
We were still there as the lunchtime clamour eased off, and the pull to hang around, bed in and pick off the menu tapa by tapa, was enticing. As it was, we settled for a nice bit of cheese instead (£6).