I am not the most politically active or informed person in the blogosphere, but I can read cause & effect. And when your cause is global economic meltdown, your effect is a lot of really good price cutting in the leadup to Christmas. I have recently found that my personal fiscal policy ("Credit cards lead people to fake their own deaths; if you haven't got the cash you can't have it") was in fact quite sound and all the people who encouraged me to take out large loans "to improve your credit rating" were talking sheer bull-honky.
Which put me in quite a good position this week when the Carnaby St shopping precinct ran an evening shopping event, with a free cocktail and 20% off most stuff. In the end I only bought a few fancy soaps as stocking stuffers for various female relations before we decided to take advantage of the discount at Dehesa tapas bar.
We ordered a couple of glasses of manzanilla and a plate of boquerones while we gave more attention to the menu. The boquerones were lovely ( I do like a little pickled fish...) in a tangy but not too harsh vinegar dressing with just the right amount of garlic. As much as a love a plate of olives as a bar snack, I will always turn them back if I have boquerones as an option!
Dehesa really emphasises their charcuterie menu. Which is a crying shame, because my friend's only real character flaw is that she doesn't eat pork. Of any sort. So I had to watch plates of gorgeous jamon, and dishes of crisp pork belly with cannelini beans, and succulent chicken liver spiedini topped with crisp prosciutto go to other diners knowing that I would have to skip those options on this occasion.
Fortunately a focus on the other aspects of the menu proved to be no hardship. We ordered some salt cod croquetas with romesco sauce, some crisp calamari with allioli and some crostini with caponata as a first round.
The croquetas were amazing - hard to believe that something based on mashed potato and deepfried could be so light. The romesco didn't add much. I wanted it to be punchier to add some contrast but, while pleasant, it wasn't punchy. The tiny, crisp baby squid were perfectly fried. Beautifully crisp outside, completely buttery inside, and the allioli was magic with them. Wonderful! The caponata was extremely good. You could taste that each element had been cooked carefully and separately before being combined. It didn't have as much of a sweet element as when I make it, and I think it was better. It was very finely diced, so it sat very nicely on the very thin crostini (which in days gone by could have been called melba toast and no one would have known the difference).
After sitting and savouring that pile, we decided to order a couple more dishes and some more manzanilla.
A selection of Spanish cheeses was good but not great. I loved the cubes of slow- cooked quince as a fun variation on membrillo, and the cheeses were very good, but they tasted like they'd been cut a while back and the walnut bread they were served with wasn't the best accompaniment. We also tried a slow cooked lamb shank with mint & carrot puree. It was lovely - as good as it gets - but somehow the very Australian Sunday-roast flavours of lamb, mint and carrots was jarring against the Spanish and Italian flavours that had gone before.
I justified ordering a dessert because if we'd been at a normal bistro, we'd probably have eaten 3 courses of fairly substantial food. Despite the variety of dishes we really hadn't eaten that much! So we shared a Santiago tart with apricot puree and cardamom icecream. Sublime. Slightly warm almond tart with a filling that wasn't too moist and heavy, or too dry, or too custardy, but just right. A thick but not stodgy puree of slightly tart apricots. The richest and most intensely perfumed of cardamom icecreams. Entirely wonderful!
The 20% off our meal was a welcome bonus, and we skipped the opportunity to shop further in favour of hoarding our remaining cash and going home for another glass of wine.