Tapas is a much used and abused term these days for many an establishment that serves supermarket meats, greasy 'chorizo', tinned olives and rubbery squid in small brown bowls. However I'd heard good things about Tinto's (www.tintotapasbar.co.uk) and given my love of genuine Spanish food decided to give it a go for an early evening meal. I now have a local tapas bar that I would be happy to go to any time and take Spanish friends and relatives to.
This is a small establishment, only a dozen or so tables but you know when they're all full on a Monday night at 7 o'clock that something must be right. The salted almonds set the scene, just the sort of appetiser you need to get the tastebuds excited. I only wish I'd immediately asked for a fino sherry with them however I made the schoolboy error of automatically going for a glass of house red, pleasant as it was.
The menu is very wide ranging and very Spanish using traditional ingredients and combining them either simply or with a long slow cook. Simple salads, cold seafood dishes, stews and sizzling meats. So for the early evening 3 tapas for £8.95 it becomes very difficult for two people to choose which six. So I chose the three ingredients that I wanted to try the most. Rabbit, salt cod and pedro ximenex (PX) sherry. While my wife went for her favourites, cold meat and olive plate, chilli prawns and the ubiquitous patatas bravas.
The rabbit was cooked to perfection, meltingly soft with caramelised baby onions and tomatoes. It was also typically Spanish in that it felt like it had been jointed with an axe with various sharp bits of bone being negotiated. Suitably rustic. The salt cod was wonderfully pan fried with black pudding and thinly sliced chorizo. The fish meaty with a wonderful flavour of the sea giving way to a mellow saltiness then the sweet meat flavours to finish. Simple yet elegant. The ham steak in PX was similarly well cooked and the sauce from that wonderfully rich wine was unctuous and required a portion of bread to soak up it's sweetness. The prawns had a perfect hint of chilli heat, swathes of chilli flavour followed by a little garlic and lime. Clean, crisp and refreshing.
The dessert menu looked similarly tempting but I decided more PX was in order, well chilled, balanced sweetness and acidity. Ice cream topping in a glass of liquid joy. Rounded off with the best Cortado I've had since leaving Barcelona last July and with friendly, relaxed service I really can't find anything to fault Tinto and it's given me faith in Tapas again.