Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tapas anyone?

If comparisons must be made then tapas is the chaat of India. The difference is that after a few plates of tapas the Spaniards call it a meal whereas after a few plates of chaat the Indians go on to a meal. It shows in the average waistline of the countries, of this I have no doubt. Also tapas is usually at a bar or in a restaurant whereas chaat is traditionally on the side of the road at a thela/ cart although Indian ‘Sweet Houses’ now count this as part of their main businesses.

I was introduced to the idea of tapas only after I moved here. Years later on holiday to Madrid I did full justice to the idea by indulging to the fullest, visiting tapas bars around the city and imbibing like the best of them. But as a novice lover of Spanish cuisine in my first days in London I often made the mistake of ordering a range of small bites, treating them like starters and then ordering a large dish of paella to follow. I soon knew this was a mistake, heck my waistline instantly knew it was a mistake. But over the years I have learnt, or rather trained myself, on how to deal with new cuisines, what kind of thing to order, what courses work with what culture etc.

On a cold cold February evening we wrapped up work and warmly ensconced in our overcoats made a beeline for our booking at Dehesa. The last time we had traipsed around central London with friends hoping to eat there we had been told that they now took bookings, a fact not reflected by their website. So a booking was duly made and now all four of us were here to commit ourselves wholly to the experience.

The interiors of Dehesa are all wood and leather and soft yellow lighting. Even on this weekday evening it is completely filled to the brim. Our table is a tiny semi-circle near the door and we sit quite squashed together on our leather sofa. The noise levels are quite high but the four of us are chatting away, catching up on world news, life events, the economy, news of friends and acquaintances.

The menu is two simply printed sides of an off-white A4 sheet. We order drinks and then, after some discussion, a whole selection of tapas to share: Salt Cod Croquetas with Romesco Sauce, Chorizo a la Plancha, Spanish Style Meatballs with Olive Oil Mash, Turnip Tops and Chanterelles, Pan Fried Scamorza with Semi Dried Plum Tomato, Pesto and Marcona Almonds, Patatas Fritas with Romesco Sauce and Alioli among other small dishes of almonds, freshly baked bread and olives. The dishes, as is traditional, are small, but large enough for everyone to taste and possibly go back for a second bite. Each ‘small bite’ is a beautifully presented dish and they come marching along like soldiers, in small clusters, to be savoured hot or cold as intended.

You wouldn’t think that a few small plates of food shared amongst four would fill our stomachs. But it does and by the time a few hours have passed we are full and filled. It is my contention that there are few things in life as cheering as good meals and good friends. Especially on cold cheerless winter days.

Dehesa: 25 Ganton Street, London W1F 9BP. Tel: 0207494 4170. E-mail:


  1. This is something I missed on my UK trip. We had full plans to go for Tapas but somehow at the last moment, we couldnt.. I so so wanted to try Spanish food and now I will have to wait for some trip when this wish can be fulfilled.

  2. Anonymous12:22 AM

    wonderfully descriptive as usual and a pleasure to read. By the way, I am giving dinner a miss tonight... too full of tapas! SM