glasgow tapas

Spanish Style Catch Ups At La Boca

There were going to be 9 of us and a pram. Oh yes. Not the sort of table that restaurants want (trust me, I know!) but La Boca welcomed us with open arms. I didn’t even have to promise that we’d behave, tell them that all nine of us have worked or work in restaurants, plead our case. 

You see, we were having a big catch up with our Glasgow nearest and dearest, and we wanted somewhere central, informal and that we were familiar with. I’ve written about La Boca before (here) as Mr S and I went on a few date nights there. Tipsy lunches with sangria and tapas then walking home in the sun, they were good days. 


Pimientos de Padron

It was the first time that most of them had met baby L so we didn’t order for a while since she was being passed around. Luckily the staff were patient with us and sorted us out with vino and juice in the meantime. We all ordered from the pre-theatre menu that is competitively priced at £10.95 for three tapas. It has a varied selection of meat, fish and veggie dishes and we all easily found things that we wanted to eat. 

Pimientos del Piquillo

Boquerones and bread arrived quickly to nibble on before the rest came out in dribs and drabs. The friendly staff made sure that we had everything needed throughout. 

Boquerones

 

Chorizo al Vino

All of the dishes seemed to go down well, notably the padron peppers and chipirones. I’m a massive tapas fan and La Boca delivers for me on this – lots of tasty little hits of Spain. 

 

Croquetas Caseras

Morcilla


Chipirones

The restaurant has a lively atmosphere that I love. It isn’t all about the food for me, it’s about the whole experience and I felt that they delivered. 

Patatas Bravas

As well as ordering from the pre-theatre menu we ordered a Secreto Iberico tapa from the main menu. It is a large tapa and you could easily have just that and some bread and olives and lunch would be dandy. We have it every time we go to La Boca and this won’t be changing. The description labels it as ‘secret cut of pork from Spain’s famous black pig, outstanding flavour’. They aren’t lying- the taste is truly fantastic. It is a savoury meaty and salty taste that rivals a good steak. 

 

Secreto Iberico (£7.50)


As far as I could see, they don’t have a baby changing unit. I managed at the time on the toilet floor with the changing bag mat but now my little L rolls about I don’t think I’d want to. Hopefully they’ll get one soon or signage if they have it. 

There’s no doubt about the fact that we’ll be returning to La Boca but since we are not as local as we once were I need Glasgow folk to keep it open for me in the meantime. Phone a friend and arrange a catch up, it’s a good place for it. 

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Cubatas – Brave Glasgow Tapas

Glasgow is awash with new places to eat and drink. I’m sure that I am not the only one that feels torn between being faithful to the old favourites and the buzz of something new. Trying to balance it is tricky so only the best will survive. It’s almost like restaurants are auditioning for the city in those first few months. I feel for new passionate restaurateurs that are trying to turn their dream into a stable day to day living. It’s brave. So to applaud the bravery I have to try every new place (I can’t be unfair now). I first heard about Cubatas through Yelp and other bloggers and it was all compliments so more than enough to convince me.

Cubatas tapas bar & restaurant is in Elderslie Street in the old Ashoka curry karaoke building, that is in the Finnieston/Charing Cross area of Glasgow. Argyle Street now has so many great restaurants, cafes and bars that it is starting to spill over into side streets like Elderslie Street. It also came with the bonus that we could park right outside.

Tapas always appeals to me because I always want to taste a bit of everything so the menu was always going to work in my mind. Cubatas did throw some non-Spanish curveballs in there like nachos, chicken curry, beer chicken and chilli con carne – I’m reserving judgement on them until I try them but another blogger did recommend the beer chicken.

When choosing our dishes we weren’t sure how many to pick because some of them are much cheaper than what you’d expect. For instance – their chicken skewers are priced at £3.50 when most place would charge £5-6. This is reflected in portion size in most of them and allows you to try one or two more.

We ordered pan de ajo (garlic bread) and olives to stop my tummy rumbling enough to make some food decisions. The size of the olive portion was far larger than we’d expected for £1.50 but we were not complaining. The garlic bread wasn’t too pungent and definitely home-made. Their draft beer is Kozel, a Czech lager that I’d never heard of but that was well suited to a mix of dishes.

Tortilla Espanola is usually what I use to suss out what I think of a tapas restaurant. Cubatas version looked small because it was cut up but I think if it had arrived whole I would not have noticed. This is clearly a well practiced dish with its well-seasoned, flavoursome characteristics. It is the best version that I’ve come across in Glasgow.

For indulgence we ordered bacon wraps with chicken and melting cheese. These were also served on cocktail sticks like a pincho is. Again, the flavour scale was impressive and we were impressed.

The menu has a whole rice section and, instead of the usual paella, we tried the spicy Mexican rice with onions and peppers. In retrospect I wish that we’d had paella because I think it suits a tapas meal better. The rice was pleasant but I wasn’t convinced that it held its own against the other dishes and I would have enjoyed it better with some jerk chicken or something similar.

The last dish to complete our first set was torpedos de chorizo – chorizo wrapped in pastry and oven baked. Quality chorizo warm from the oven with the slight crunch of pastry. This is such a simple idea and we thought they were great.

Tuna salad was next and we both felt it lacked a zingy dressing. I noticed that they have updated their menu recently so they might have changed this already.

Just to really make sure that we got our carb intake we had gone for patatas al graten. This translated into potato gratin and it is a dish that I choose often as its too indulgent for me to justify making at home. It arrived on the table and we were confused because it was not a gratin – it looked like potato skins. We gingerly tried it and it was really very tasty. Like the ingredients of a gratin had been shook up, modernised and put into some potato skins. A certain success but the menu could do with a description change.

A short gap and desserts were calling us. We ordered crema catalana and a mixed ice-cream. I’ll get the negative out of the way first – we felt that the vanilla ice-cream let the pack down. It was not as smooth and rich as the other flavours. On the other hand, the chocolate and strawberry ice-creams were a delight and I would happily order them again.

The crema catalana was the real star here. It was superior to most with notes of citrus and a delectable creaminess.

After that first visit I wanted to take my husband in to experience it too. We shared a cheese and meat platter (ridiculously good value for money), patatas bravas, pork skewers, mixed greens, calamari, gambas pil pil and mushrooms with black pudding. The only one that we weren’t bowled over by was the greens. The rest were delicious and proved to me that my first visit was not good by chance. We had planned to have a pint in the beer garden that the manager was building when I had visited the first time but it was bucketing down. If the sun stays out then we might get to do it soon.

Cubatas has some purse friendly lunch and pre-theatre menus that will entice me to return. It is a casual place and the staff made us feel very welcome. I was watching how the serving staff were interacting with other customers & they were always smiling. It looks like a good place to work and they seemed proud of it.

Glasgow is fierce in more ways than one. We protect what we like and don’t accept any rubbish. The eating out scene is multicultural and varied with Spanish food joining the pack. Personally I love tapas for an informal meal so I can graze on a piece of one food then nibble on another. Tapas may not be in fashion right now but it’ll never go far away in my thoughts. It’s a yes from me.

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I was invited to Cubatas for a complimentary meal. We paid for the second meal after enjoying the first. All of my opinions are honest as usual.

Cubatas Tapas Bar and restaurant on Urbanspoon

La Boca – Pretending We’re In Spain

La Boca literally means ‘the mouth’ in Spanish – a strange name for a restaurant I first thought until I came round to the blatant simplicity of it. Feed me, feed me now.

Having heard of this new place online, I convinced Mr S that this was what we needed to do on our day off. Arriving in between lunch and dinner meant that it was fairly quiet but that’s how I prefer it. Draught Estrella was ordered and we began trying to eliminate items from the menu to narrow down our choice. Our waiter had the rubbish job of telling us that their bread delivery had not arrived yet. A new restaurant has such hiccups and it really is not their fault but with so many places selling bread nearby I couldn’t help but think a quick shopping trip could have remedied it. I like to use bread to mop up sauces in the little dishes so I was pretty gutted. If I hadn’t heard such good things I probably would have suggested drinking up and coming back another day but I’m glad now that I didn’t.

 

Instead we stuffed our ‘boca’s’ with queso & jamon (platter £10). The queso in question was sliced manchego and the jamon was of my preferred iberico variety. No cooking required, just quality ingredients, but such a pleasing dish. The iberico had the richness that only iberico jamon has – this is perhaps my most favourite meat ever.

The rest of the dishes came in dribs and drabs as it would in Spain. We ordered sangria and enjoyed the experience. Gambas pil pil (£4.50) had big, juicy prawns and packed a punch – I even enjoyed it without bread. We dunked our fries (£2.50) in and wondered why we had never done this before.

Bread appeared soon after with our brocheta – a skewer of chicken, pepper and onion from the grill (£6.00). A good marinade and barbeque like flavour lifted this simple combination. The roasted salted tomato on the side was very much to my liking and I hope they keep it up with little jazzed up accompaniments.

The star of the show was the secreto iberico (£6.00). We had never tried this before but we had something that sounded similar in Pizarro in London so it immediately piqued interest. When our waiter finished his description with a wide eyed ‘you have to try it’ we knew that he was right. In fact, the meat comes from in between the shoulder blade and the loin of an Iberico pig. It looks like a piece of thin pork, has the texture of really good quality pork with a cooked taste of iberico jamon. It is special indeed and La Boca have excelled themselves by putting this on the menu.

 

The desserts change regularly and the waiter described them for us. One sounded like crema catalana but with biscuit on top instead of burnt sugar so we chose this. When it arrived it was indeed like a rich tea on top with cinnamon but it complemented the crema. Unfortunately the crema was not at all set so after a few spoons we were not enjoying it so much. The owner came over to our table and asked about it before seeing how runny it was and apologised before removing it from the bill. He was so passionate about everything being authentic (he used to live in Spain) and this really impressed us.

 

La Boca could be described as typically Spanish, informal and fun. It is the sort of place that we will take friends to for a catch-up with lots of laughs. Now just to check that they sell port to round off the night…

 

Princes Squares Spanish Gem – Barca

If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll gather that I am a fairly loyal customer once you’ve got my attention. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the excitement of a new place, but going somewhere that I know what to expect leaves me feeling content. If we don’t go back to these places then they won’t be there to go back to so it is important as well. On one of my many Christmas shopping days I met Liz (loves good food & gin) and we were looking for somewhere near the shops in the city centre to eat. We went through the usual “Greek?”, “I don’t fancy Greek”, “I don’t fancy Indian” rigmarole and decided on tapas so made a beeline for Princes Square. I always know that Christmas is coming when I go into Princes Square because the decorations feel so magical. I miss the old traditional decorations they had but the new ones still do the job. Even although Princes Square is a shopping centre, it plays host to some fantastic eateries. None of this school dinners style malarkey-more cocktails, rib-eyes & macchiatos. Barca has been there for a long time and I first went about five years ago. It covers three of my needs – near the shops, cheap enough for a spur of the moment and tasty food. They do a few deals online so I tend to book through an external site but forgot this time.

 

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It was fairly quiet when we arrived so there were seats left on the balcony but this area busies up quickly so I’d specify it when booking if you really want to sit there. We ordered some beers to kick us off – a Sagres for her and a Desperados for me – then a selection of dishes from the a la carte menu.

We ordered barra gallega con salsas (£4.50) – crusty bread that comes with aioli, extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, red mojo sauce (tastes like paprika) and green mojo sauce (tastes like coriander) because we were hungry and wanted something immediate. The dips are worth the extra money – so moreish!

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Shortly afterwards our food started arriving with my gambas pil pil (£5.95) coming first. It is such a simple dish but one of my Spanish favourites and their addition of paprika only makes it better. My only suggestion is that I’d love more garlic slivers in the pan to mop up with bread.

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Liz’s manchego frito (£4.75) was the ultimate treat dish of Spanish manchego cheese in a crumb with a spicy tomato dip – all gooey and cheesy, yum.

 

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Chuleta de cordero (£7.95) came as two big lamb cutlets with a sweet fig and honey sauce – another one to mop up with bread as you can see in the photo!

 

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As a special they were doing turkey and cranberry croquettes (£5.95) so we thought we would try them out. They were really nice and I’d love to see them on the menu even although it is a festive filling.

 

Since I have an infatuation with garlic and olive oil, I also chose champinones al horno (£4.95), which are flat cap mushrooms baked with the aforementioned. The dish had been executed well – the mushrooms still had a slight firmness and weren’t drowned in the garlicky oil.

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Patatas bravas (£3.75) completed our spanish feast and added on some little needed carbs but were enjoyable all the same.

 

It was meant to be a quick dinner but we ended up sitting chatting for a few hours in the nice surroundings. Our waitress was friendly and did not seem to mind as it was quiet. The perfect post-shopping unwind.

 

 

Barca Tapas and Cava Bar on Urbanspoon

Glasgow Tapas Has Never Been So Good

To get over ‘hangover Thursday’ we decided that we needed a good, hearty lunch. I have been hearing good things about Malaga Tapas (near Shields Road underground) so we figured that this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I have to admit that from the outside this place was not selling itself to us but once we got inside this all changed. We arrived fairly late on by lunch standards so the restaurant was quiet but we were met with a smile and taken into the dining room. The first thing that struck me was how authentic I thought it looked- all dark wood and chunky seats. It felt homely which was perfect when you are feeling as weary as we were!

After ordering drinks, our waiter came over with a complimentary hor d’oeuvre of crusty bread with what tasted like a red pepper topping and olives. I felt like I was on holiday being given free food! I will admit that this small gesture won me over immediately.

The menu is extensive and they had a lunch deal on where you could choose any three tapas from the a la carte menu for £6.95. We eventually decided on six dishes and some bread to mop up the sauces.

The first dish to arrive was Pinchos De Ronda, which is marinated grilled chicken skewers served with a sweet chilli dip. It was full of flavour and the chicken was juicy – we knew we had come to the right place for lunch.

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When I read on the menu that they made their own Chorizo I knew that Chorizo Frito Al Vino Tinto was going to be my next choice. The paprika flavour in the chorizo was delightful and the red wine sauce complemented it perfectly.

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I needed some good stodge in my belly so we went for the Patatas Gratinadas – creamy gratin potatoes with cheese.

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We never go to a tapas restaurant without sampling the paella and this time we opted for the chicken paella. It was a thumbs up from us…full of flavour, with lots of peas and chicken to balance out the rice.

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As Mr S was feeling a bit delicate, we went for another skewered dish so he could avoid too much sauce. This time we plumped for the pork skewers that were marinated in garlic, cumin and red wine (Pinchos Morunos). This was similar to the chicken skewers, and was also a hit on the taste scale.

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Last but not least, I chose the Pollo Al Ajillo because I love garlic and it is a real treat having chicken oozing with oily garlic. This may have been my favourite dish – it won me over by having so many garlic slivers in the sauce that I could have a piece of garlic with every bite of chicken.

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We couldn’t fit in dessert, in fact we had to take some tapas home due to our wimpy hangover stomachs, but next time I will not be leaving without trying one. I was very jealous watching another table get their Creme Catalan blowtorched at the table.

Last of all I have to mention the gentleman who served us – he was friendly without being irritating or imposing and he made us feel thoroughly welcome.

I always have a spring in my step when I try out a new restaurant that meets my expectations so I am happy to say that I walked out of Malaga Tapas with a big smile on my face.

Malaga Tapas on Urbanspoon