Banners up, aprons tied, kitchens working at full speed as the doors open to the glut feast that is Tarragona dTapes tapas festival.
We started round one from the Centre, the Middle Earth of Tarragona, the area revolving around the large food market. This area may not be as compelling as the Part Alta or have the guts of the Serrallo but it’s gastronomic offerings are just as compelling.
Stop one was at Els Fogons de l’Isma (www.facebook.com/fogons.delisma) where we were presented with a tapa called ‘Mandanga de la buena’ a succulent medallion of pork wrapped in pastry and cooked ‘a la beef Wellington’ brushed in sauce made of red wine from the Monsant area. A truly impressive start.
Next it was the turn of ‘Toca’m el xampi’ an endearing little number by La Botifarra, the rustic eatery with cured meats and rusty farm implements hanging from the ceiling, what you see is what you get and what you get is a little moment of palatable joy: a slice of pan de país, or country bread toasted face up, spread with mousse of champignons and a touch of garlic, a generous slice or two of llom embotit. cured pork, a squirt of salsa carbonara and a topping of crunchy sauteed onions.
Waiting for us across the street was Restaurant Piticuixa with it large firewood fed grill on which hundreds of juicy mini chicken skewers were waiting to be transformed in to tasty tapas bites. Served with thin sliver of roasted vegetables together with a zesty dip this was a welcome addition to the great diversity which is Tarragona dTapes.
The Xamfra del Forum – XDF set in the shadows of the old roman ruins of the Forum was ready to take it’s customers to a bit of a leap. They did it last year and they are doing it again with their Vieira XDF, presented with a minimal panache matching its surroundings; the tapas consists of two scallops, each sitting in a mouth watering concoction of romesco sauce, a zesty apple aioli and sprinkled with iberian ham salt. One gulp and it’s gone and good thing that there was one more serving for a chase up as one is not enough… and neither is two…
The restaurant Còcvla, located inside the Hotel Urbis takes a classic and relaxed earthy approach to its food which is why we were presented with a Romesquet de Mandonguilles de lluς . Pike dumplings in a delicious rich Romesco based sauce, served with a slice of fresh bread to mop things up – a full mini meal in its self.
And what better way to finish off a self absorbed evening with a Mos Crispy Burger, a miniature chicken burger wedged between pieces of bread served with a slice of apple, lettuce and a drizzle of soy sauce, served in a busy diner by Mos Restaurant near the Rambla.
We were back on the tapas trail next day it was the turn of the rather endearingly named “El pulpito de Manolito” at Bar Negresco, a no nonsense salty chunks of octopus served with a crispy salad and romesco sauce inside a fried filo wrap.
Delta Blank, served by Deu mes u (cafeteria Once) proved a nice alternative: a mush mushroom risotto made from the rice of the nearby Ebro, served with strips of fresh cheese and garnished with a deep fried breaded olive. Good honest food from a cafeteria which also offers one of the best selection of tortillas in town.
The Coca de Baldana from Cafeteria Leman on the Rambla, came with a delicious red from the Monsant: a simple idea which is basically a rind- less slice of white bread served with a filling of roasted peppers, caramelized onions and mozzarella. The parcel is toasted, the cheese melts and you got your self a pizza sandwich.
Our last stop for the allocated ‘Centre’ dTapes area was at 20 a la Rambla for the most outlandish offering so far: a mousse of foie served in a glass of yogurt (without the yogurt) with strawberry poached in coca cola (or something like that) … I have to admit that it didn’t quite hit the spot for this blogger but kudos to the establishment for trying something very different. Next: dTapes Part Alta!