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In an age of enhanced social distancing, ‘support bubbles’, ‘second spikes’ and Covid-safe dining, one could be forgiven for thinking that a night of traditional tapas and drinks might easily end up being yet another casualty of the coronavirus crisis.
With tapas being an eating-out experience built on sharing, socialising and the leisurely enjoyment of one’s surroundings, it takes an impressive calibre of restauranteur not only to survive but thrive in this ‘new normal’.
Little wonder, then, that the award-winning Tasca Dali tapas bar & restaurant has taken the challenge in its stride, providing patrons with a fully authentic evening of Covid-secure dining.
The eatery boasts a range of seasonal dishes, cooked fresh from the oven using only the finest Mediterranean ingredients and all served within the effortlessly relaxed surroundings of an intimate bijoux bar.
Sister restaurant to the newly opened FlamenCo Tapas Bar in West Street and proud winner of the Best Spanish Restaurant of the Year award at the inaugural Restaurant Awards: Midlands Edition, this thriving staple of Warwick’s extended high street exudes traditional Spanish warmth from the moment you step over the threshold.
Small but perfectly formed, Tasca Dali’s innovative yet discreet approach to ensuring customer safety is to be admired. Unobtrusive in design and fully at one with the restaurant’s unique intimacy of scale, the understated addition of perspex screens separate diners into neat near-perfect ‘bubbles’. These makeshift ‘booths’ provide an added injection of romance to the neo-gothic surroundings, complete with upturned keg-tables, wine-coloured walls of peacock blue, terracotta and olive green, ambient low-level lighting and open kitchen-bar.
In keeping with its relaxed ethos, Tasca Dali is unique amongst tapas restaurants in that its menu is constantly updated and ever-changing. With no traditional itemised menu of dishes to choose from on arrival, diners are instead invited to sit back, relax and let Spain come to them in the shape of a five-course tasting menu. This is updated weekly according to season and what ‘market fresh’ produce is available on the day. All dietary requirements and allergies are catered for when placing your order in advance. And whilst the price may be a little on the steep side at £35 per head, the conviviality of staff, coupled with the stress-free nature of the dinner service - which took place over a leisurely two hours - left me well and truly transported to sun-drenched Spanish shores.
Opening the evening with a refreshing serving of Tanqueray gin & tonic coupled with a cooling glass of Estrella Damm Spanish lager, our culinary tour of Spain kicked off with a platter of traditional entremeses. This consisted of grand reserve serrano ham, home-made tortilla, picula olives marinated in chilli oil, 12-month aged manchego cheese and organic chorizo, and bread served with fresh olive oil, the quality of which was nothing short of exceptional.
The ideal opening to any sharing experience, every mouthful was a new journey in flavour, from the rich, earthy notes of the paprika-infused chorizo, right through to the unmistakeable sweetness of the aged serrano ham. This was complemented by an accompanying trio of Spanish-inspired dips, which ranged from the tried-and-tested aioli - an intensely flavoured garlic-yoghurt dip, infused with olive oil - to the lesser-known Canarian red mojo rojo - a fiery ‘fiesta’ of a number consisting of garlic, red pepper, chilli, cumin and paprika. Fantastico!
We opted for a bottle of the Ruedo Vendimias (£24, or £6 per glass) from the impressive wine menu. Our convivial waiter was, in every way, attentive to our needs, whilst at the same time giving myself and my dining companion plenty of space between courses to savour our time together.
After a short pause, the culinary tour continued with a classic Spanish lentil & chorizo stew, served in traditional earthenware bowls and infused with the unmistakable flavours and passion of traditional Spanish home-cooking.
By far the surprise hit of the evening, though, came in the shape of the baked fillet of sea bream served with Spanish vegetable pisto - a richly flavoured vegetable stew not at all dissimilar to the French ratatouille. Accompanied by a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and paprika, it was here that Tasca Dali’s respect for ingredients and exacting standards of preparation came into their own. Effortlessly light in texture and delicately seasoned, every mouthful was a joy to be savoured. As was the red pepper & tomato pisto accompaniment, the caramelised flavours of which offset the fish perfectly.
Bringing the five-course ‘fiesta’ to a fitting close was a generous serving of Pollo a la pepitoria. A staple of any Spanish table, it consisted of chicken cooked in white wine with fresh herbs served with new potatoes. Succulent and richly flavoured with notes of oregano, garlic and almond, and served falling from the bone, this was traditional cooking worthy of any native Spanish table.
After indulging in so rich a feast, the homemade dessert of a classic lemon mousse - though somewhat understated - was the perfect palate cleanser and just the right portion size for my now-overstretched stomach.
For the perfect ‘getaway’ enjoyed from the comfort of your own living room, Tasca Dali also offers a popular takeaway service.
And for day visitors, there’s the newly launched Bruncheria menu. Consisting of a delicious selection of hot and cold plates, including paella, tosta (baked breads infused with olive oil) and tapas, it’s the perfect excuse to escape the office, plan a day trip or celebrate with friends.
After a difficult few months during which Covid-19 has cast its dark shadow over the future of this buzzing tapas bar, I’m delighted to see Tasca Dali’s reputation for excellence shining through. Slowly but surely, discerning diners are returning to enjoy its unique hospitality, ambience and passion for traditional Spanish produce.
From the introduction of enhanced contact tracing to ensuring its charming layout is fully compliant with current social-distancing law, Tasca Dali has left no stone unturned when it comes to customer safety, whilst at the same time ensuring that the inherently social and joyous nature of the Spanish eating experience remains fully intact.
Salud to that!
★★★★ Katherine Ewing
15 High Street
Tel: 07445 223527
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