It’s easy to see why La Vinoteca Barcelona, the brand new tapas bar and restaurant in Block 338, has fast become popular. The venue for a start is chic and inviting with a long bar, high tables for quick bites and restaurant seating downstairs, upstairs and outside.
Then there are the food and beverage menus that are full of tasty sounding Spanish classics and grape that fill you full of anticipation for a great meal. Let’s not forget the service either – it’s attentive, efficient and friendly but still professional. And the fact that the head chef and restaurant manager are actually Spanish is a real plus point too.
With all that in mind, we go one late weekend lunchtime to find it already bustling. In order to get a real feel for the offering we decide to go all-out with one of their incredible set menus that promise a huge range of dishes for a reasonable price. They have a choice of three different varieties but we are dying for a taste of their paella so we opt for one with a tapas selection and rice.
We don’t have to wait long after we order until the plates come flying out of the kitchen. First, we’re served on small slates a couple of cups of gazpacho, some homemade bread with tomato sauce, little slices of Spanish omelette and skewers of olives and anchovies. The portions are perfect – just right when there are two of you preparing yourselves for a feast – and the flavours are spot on. We’re particularly impressed with the gazpacho, which is refreshing and has a real depth to it, and the omelette which is very reminiscent of something you could enjoy in Spain.
We plough quickly through these plates and are just finishing off when out comes the baby spinach, goat’s cheese and quinoa salad which is revelationary. It’s refreshing and just bursting with all sorts of flavours coming from the small dollops of fruit puree, tart terrine and balsamic reduction to the smooth and creamy goat’s cheese and the mounds of quinoa we suspect have also been mixed with more of that goat’s cheese. For us, this salad soars to the top of our list for ‘best dishes we’ve had this year’. Bold words coming from us.
Then we’re treated to some hot tapas including jumbo prawns, rolled up beef carpaccio and patatas bravas. Again, we’re hard-pressed to find fault with any of these dishes and we’re particularly enamoured by the patatas bravas which are crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy within, and oozing with a delectable aioli and tomato sauce.
You’d think we’d be struggling to fit more in our stomachs by this point but you’d be wrong. As I already mentioned – everything has been perfectly portioned and the dishes are surprisingly light. So we have plenty of room left to tuck into the star attraction – the seafood paella.
Our waiter brings the paella in a piping hot pan and plates it up tableside. This is where the portion gets generous but we’re not complaining because every mouthful of this paella is a real treat. The depth of flavour is astounding and the rice is beautifully cooked so it’s a tad al dente but has still had time to absorb all the juices from the rest of the ingredients. The seafood, which includes prawns, clams, mussels and calamari, is all tender (not at all rubbery!). As a whole, this dish is phenomenal (it now sidles alongside the quinoa salad on our list).
Now we’re full to the brim so we’re glad they give us a lengthy break before they bring out the final dish – Catalan cream. It’s the best ending to this meal as it’s light, tart, creamy and sweet all in one.
It really is hard to find anything to fault at La Vinoteca apart from the fact that the prices are on the higher side for Bahrain (a bottle of water set us back BD2.500!). But it’s worth it – our experience proved to be a great introduction to what the restaurant can really offer and now we’re itching to go back. In time, they’ll also open the wonderful-looking terrace area and balcony where the plan is to host events for both this spot and Cafe Amsterdam. We have high hopes.
We only hope the team doesn’t fall into the regular Bahrain trap of launching strong and then over time allowing standards to fall. Because if they don’t then they’re easily on course to becoming one of many residents’ favourite restaurants on the island. Including us.
The bill (for two) 1 x water BD2.500 2 x tapas and rice set menu BD50 15 percent service charge 5 percent government levy Total BD63
La Vinoteca Barcelona
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com