The first time I ever had tapas was not in the sunshine in Seville, Valencia or many of the other splendid cities of Spain, but on a grey September evening in Clapham in South London on my first day in the Northern Hemisphere. Heavy D took it upon himself to introduce me to a dose of instant Iberian culture and we went to the venerable institution that is La Rueda on the Clapham High Street which he declared was as authentically Spanish as a sombrero. Indeed. Nevertheless La Rueda introduced me to things such as gazpacho (cold soup?), chorizo and Pulpo a la Gallega - all of which were exotic dishes for a boy from the Antipodes.
Many years on and several visits to the aforementioned Spanish cities later, I’d turned into one of those bores who complain that you could never get the quality of food, not to mention dollops of sunshine, that you seemed to trip over on every corner in Spain. This of course has been proved patently wrong several times in recent years with the gorgeous but expensive Fino and the wonderful Brindisa in Borough Market two of the standouts. For food not sunshine.
Last night the Northerner and yours truly finally made it to Dehesa off Carnaby Street after several, admittedly half-hearted attempts previously. This place has been ‘famous’ amongst foodies and fashionistas and media folks for a while now, and you can see why. Superb food and wine, and a nice crowded and buzzy ambience make it a perfect place for the chattering classes to swarm to, and eavesdrop if one is so inclined.
We were sat next to a group of actors one of whom seemed to speak endlessly about the sacrifices his art had to make for commercialism in trying to justify his auditioning for a cereal ad. On the other side was a couple who just had to be there as a consequence of an online dating site, so bereft were they of anything resembling a conversation. Example – have you ever been to Australia? Yes it’s great, you should go.
Ganton Street where Dehesa resides is now a destination in itself with the likes of The Diner, Zebrano and Mangosteen not to mention a couple of old boozers for good measure. And last night the summer evening saw groups of fashion retailers, hairdressers and tourists looking for ‘action’ drinking themselves into a pre-club frenzy. Quality. But Dehesa is the place you, and everyone else judging by the queue, want to go, and I must say it was well worth the wait.
And with no sangrias, cow bells, sol beer it’s a far cry from dear old La Rueda and the better for it. Although Heavy D might have something to say about that.