Monday, 18 April 2016

Review: Tapas Revolution

When Grand Central, the shopping centre above New Street Station opened, I was a bit over-whelmed by all the new food options. To be honest, I haven't really made my way round them yet. I've been to Leon quite a few times, Handmade Burger a couple of times and once for Tapas Revolution.

Tapas Revolution caught my eye immediately. I love Spanish food and Tapas Revolution seemed to be the closest we would have in Brum city centre to a trad tapas bar. We have Amantia of course but they've got mains and a bit of a new twist on some classics, plus Borracho del Oro which is a little further out. Looking at Tapas Revolution's menu, there didn't seem to be any surprises there.

So, as there wasn't anything new to me on the menu, it was going to have to be really good. I visited back in October for a panchetta and egg roll which was delicious but didn't tell me much about the tapas. My friend had a paella which he said was a little dry, a sentiment I have seen repeated elsewhere. I suppose paella can't really be done quickly.

Edd and I returned for a tapas meal during the Easter break. Edd is quite affected by the atmosphere of a place so it took him a while to get used to being in a train station for dinner. I quite liked the sound of the announcements going off and the sight of people hurrying past, but it's something to bear in mind.

They've done quite a good job of giving the place a Spanish feel, with tiling and peppers hanging down from the walls. You can see the chefs working in an open kitchen.

We settled down at our table and set about choosing 6 tapas between us, plus some bread. We were brought some chickpeas to nibble on while we waited, mixed with slithers of red pepper- these were rather moreish.

We had a bottle of the house white wine which was light and zingy and perfect with the tapas. I don't drink much wine any more as it makes me sneeze. Yes really. This one didn't, so I really enjoyed it.

We chose to have the pan de la casa (bread of the house) which is topped with tomato and garlic sauce and Serrano ham. I loved this bread. The tomato sauce made the bread soft and gooey, while retaining the crust. The ham was delicious of course. I've had tomato bread before in Barcelona, but this had been taken to another level.

We also had some fried green peppers brought over. We hadn't asked for these- I believe they had been put through by mistake but they let us have them. I'm glad they did as I would never have tried them otherwise. The crisp outer skin gave way to tender flesh. The sharp aftertaste which I often get from green peppers was gone. I loved the sea salt flakes sprinkled over too.

We ordered patatas bravas because we felt they are a simple dish that a restaurant should be able to do well. I wasn't sure they would be better than the amazing ones I had at Catalan in Warwick. Well, they were different. I wanted more of the spicy tomato sauce on top, but the fried potatoes were fantastic. I don't know what potatoes they used, but the crispy skin didn't disguise the earthy potato taste.

Pisto was an aubergine, pepper and courgette stew. This was one of Edd's favourite dishes. The vegetables were delightfully soft and had retained their flavours.

We chose gratin red peppers because it was something we hadn't tried before. The peppers had been filled with cod bechamel. This was a delicious, cheesy, gooey mess of a dish and we loved it.

Crispy pork belly was soft or crunchy in the appropriate places and drizzled with a rich, sweet sauce.

Gambas or king prawns are another dish I always want. I was disappointed that they didn't have the shell on, but they made up for it with perfectly cooked hot, meaty prawns with a good crunch to them. The garlic and chilli oil was fantastic. I love how brave they were with the flavours- big chunks of garlic and plenty of chilli.

We thought we were finished but the manager, Frank, came over for a chat and wanted to share some of his favourite dishes with us. It was obvious that he is passionate about the food that Tapas Revolution are putting out. While Tapas Revolution is a growing chain at this point, they are retaining their roots, thinking about their meals and their produce and this came across in the meal.

So to start off our second part of the meal, we had the pulpo (octopus). We very nearly went for this so I was glad when Frank brought some out for us. I've tried octopus before and enjoyed it but this was pretty special. Generous chunks of octopus were sympathetically cooked and had an almost sweet and juicy taste. The potatoes it came with were nice enough but I didn't want to fill myself up too much.

I liked the cute little flag- 'I am Galician'.

We also had marinaded beef skewers, which were another of Edd's favourites. They had an intensely beefy flavour, perfect with the spicy mojo sauce.

I'd spotted Carajillo on the menu. This was something Edd and I experienced on our first night in Valencia, many years ago. At the end of our first meal in Valencia, the waiter asked if we wanted coffee.

"Yes please," we replied.

"You want brandy in it?" he asked. We shrugged and thought 'why not', expecting an americano with a bit of brandy in it. Oh no. It was an espresso, with a shot of brandy in it. We were high on life that evening, I can tell you.

So, spotting it on the Tapas Revolution menu, we were very excited to try it and see if it was the same. I've had it in other places and they come at you with a liqueur coffee which is NOT THE SAME GUYS.

Yay! It's pretty intense but if you like strong coffee I would highly recommend it.

Again, we weren't going to have pudding but were tempted by the churros. Believe it or not, the sale of churros is 30% of Tapas Revolution's business and is very important to them. They have a machine churning them out fresh all day, and you can go up to the counter and buy them, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. What an amazing train snack! I can't think of anywhere else that does them 'to go' like that, other than at food festivals.

These were top quality churros- hot, crispy, with a sweet airy batter, served with the most delightful sweet chocolate sauce. I may be tempted to order a take away bag of these next time I'm at Grand Central.

Finally, some fresh, vibrant limonade, made with a pinch of saffron and served with a mint leaf, for freshness. You can have this with gin too.

Although it was a little odd sitting in a train station, when I started thinking about it, it made sense. In my travels across Spain, Germany and Italy, I've seen little bars in train stations and shopping centres, serving fresh meats, breads and nibbles. Grand Central really reminds me of a shopping centre in a converted bull ring in Barcelona, where there was another little tapas bar or ice cream parlour round every corner.

If you were waiting for a train from New Street and chose to spend an hour in Tapas Revolution with a good glass of wine or a gin concoction, some of those fried peppers and a plate of pulpo and potatoes, I promise you the time would fly by. The staff are passionate about what they are serving and the prices are reasonable- none of the tapas was above £7.

A thoroughly enjoyable meal, which surprised me with the quality of the ingredients and the cooking. I'll be back!

Tapas Revolution, Grand Central, Birmingham

Photos by myself and Edd.

All food and drink were complimentary. Obviously we had a slightly different experience in that the manager came over to chat and share his favourite bits from the menu, but this just showed me that he gave a damn and cares about what he is doing- and that must filter through to every meal.

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