In Spain, a tapeo is a moving party where people sample various tapas as they walk from bar to bar. Wine & Dine attempts to recreate the experience in style as we eat our way across Spanish restaurants and bars in Singapore.
To telescope rapidly, the tapa was born in 19th Century Andalusia as small plates of free food to whet the appetite and encourage drinking at bars in Spain. To immerse myself in the country’s most traditional social rituals, I attempt to recreate the tapeo right here in Singapore where the Spanish food trend is alive and well with numerous restaurants and tapas bars mushrooming in recent years. To help me in my quest, I enlist the help of Ana Diago Gonzalez, a trade analyst from the Economic & Commercial Office of Spain in Singapore and a true blue Spaniard from Madrid.
Our tapathon begins at Serenity Spanish Bar & Restaurant, a sprawling cheerful venue which also has an alfresco bar area overlooking the waterfront. We try the Buñuelos de Bacalao, which are delicious fried fritters made from dough and fresh cod, and a tapas bar must-have in Spain, Patatas Bravas with homemade aioli. We are particularly enamoured by the Pulpo A La Gallega, a tapas of sliced boiled octopus garnished with paprika, olive oil and flaked salt. For Ana, it is taste of home that brings memories of summer holidays spent in the seaside town of Galicia.
We move on to Don Quijote on Dempsey Hill and are ushered into its darkened cosy interior. Our sangrias are absolutely delicious, a light sweet balance of chopped fruit and red wine. Here we sample seafood tapas like the Gambas Al Ajillo which are live prawns which have been fried in garlic, Crab and Scallop dip served with toast, and the Almejas Al Vino Blanco, which are sweet plump clams in white wine sauce.
In the spirit of true tapeo, we foot our way down the road to Villa Enrique for our next stop. Nestled in a lush green corner of Dempsey Hill, the best way to enjoy Villa Enrique is to chill out at the alfresco tables on the lawn outside, with a sangria in hand and an array of cold cuts like chorizo and Jamon Serrano to nibble on.
We head on to Bodega Y Tapas, an atmospheric, often-packed split-room eatery on the lip of Orchard Road. This is one of Ana’s favourite tapas places of the lot and she is acquainted with the man behind the great food, Spanish chef Roberto Hernandez. The Terrina De Foie Gras Al Pedro Ximenez is delicious slathered onto slices of crisp toast while the Bacalao, Parmentier De Puerros Y Setas is a cloud of pan-seared European cod in leeks puree and confit of mushrooms.
Another of Ana’s favourite places is La Cicala which serves up contemporary tapas cooked up with a Japanese white bamboo charcoal grill in a sleek sophisticated gastro lounge setting. Signature dishes here include the Chopitos, deep fried calamari with saffron-infused mayonnaise, Fideua, a seafood paella made with short noodle pasta instead of rice, and Croquetas, crispy croquettes which reveal steaming interiors of cheese and chorizo.
To round of our tapeo, we pop down to Zsofi Tapas Bar, one of the few places left that still practice the tradition of offering free tapas with every drink bought. Ana and I settle in with a pitcher of sangria on the rooftop terrace to chat and laugh over our tapas of Gambas Al Ajillo, commas of bouncy prawns in garlic, Solomillo De Ternera, a tasty dish of veal fillets and Paella Valencia, Spanish rice studded with mussels, squid and prawns. We toast to good food and new friendships, while the balmy terrace fills with the sound of clinking glasses, and chatter from like-minded diners in search of classic flavours, unhurried conversations, and Spanish cuisine that welcome the new while celebrating the old.
Serenity Spanish Bar & Restaurant
1 Harbourfront Walk, #01-98/99, Tel: 6376 8185
Blk 7 Dempsey Road, #01-02, Tel: 6476 2811
10 Dempsey Road, Tel: 6475 3800
Bodega Y Tapas
442 Orchard Road, #01-29, Tel: 6735 3476
49 Club Street, Tel: 6534 8812
Zsofi Tapas Bar
68 Dunlop Street Singapore, Tel: 6297 5875
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