DehesaPosted: March 22, 2009
Address: 25 Ganton Street, W1F 9BP
Tel: 020 7494 4170
Situated on the corner of Ganton Street, Dehesa brings what initially appears to be a welcome addition of “Italian-Spanish” food to this lively spot in Soho. On a balmy Friday night the boyfriend and I found ourselves attracted to the outside tables, and tried our best to ignore the raucous crowd from the pub opposite, who were practically sat at our table with us. Despite the fact that we couldn’t really hear ourselves think and resolutely sat through the din in the name of chilled café culture; there was actually something rather fun about sitting down to a civilised meal while people got completely rat-arsed next to us.
Our waitress was pleasant and informative enough, although we weren’t sure if she was smiling or sneering at us – it was that kind of place. When she asked to take a card as insurance as we were “sitting outside” we realised that sadly, it was the latter. It’s a sorry state of affairs when it comes to this, not to mention counter-productive for all this mistrust does is breed random acts of criminality. (The possibility of running off without paying hadn’t actually occurred to me up until this point, but now she had planted the idea firmly in my mind). Anyway, I digress. I ordered a fresh orange juice which was fresh and sweet – pure Spain in a glass.
The menu offers a range of rather pricey charcuterie, as well as bigger plates, but unable to decide we went for the tapas. I had always wanted to try deep-fried courgette flowers and saw my chance here. They arrived fresh from the fryer and drizzled enticingly with honey. However the Monte Enebro cheese they were stuffed with completely over-powered the delicate flavours of the vegetable, to the point where I had to quickly eat something else to get the taste out of my mouth. This is a shame as the texture of the molten cheese within the crisp flower was spot on.
Another issue was the portion-control. I know this was tapas, but the sour dough bread was the only decently sized dish. It was nicely char-grilled and arrived with a fairly typical aioli, but at the end of the day it was just bread. Ditto the patatas fritas which were just that (chips). The baby squid verged perilously on the bland-side and was served with an equally forgettable hummous-like substance.None of it was awful, but none of it was exceptional either. However even if it had been amazing, it would have paled into insignificance next to the confit pork belly which arrived on a bed of rosemary-scented cannellini beans. Now, I know people bang on about food-porn nowadays, but this was the definitive money-shot.
I must point out here that this was something I had not ordered, but as we had shared everything else the boyfriend demanded that I try some. Pork is a fuzzy area for me – it’s hard to explain, basically I drink and I do a variety of other un-Islamic things, but like most bad Muslims, I try very hard not to eat any pig. But sometimes, somehow, it just happens.
I mumbled a few weak protestations about going to hell but he just looked at me and cut into the crackling with his fork, the crunch of it rising above the din of the pub for one sweet moment. I gave in. It was superb. The surface was glossier than the heel of a Louboutin and properly heart-clogging with the meat inside meltingly tender and richly savoury.The beans were the perfect complement, the herby aroma was just so without being overbearing. The crackling had the most exquisite mouth-feel, in the way that only pure, rendered animal fat can, the sweet-salty fattiness was truly sinful. Literally. I found myself in raptures and then in paroxysms of guilt because this was a Friday and I really shouldn’t be doing this on any day of the week, but Especially not on a Friday. Somehow this made it all the more delicious. One mouthful and that was it. I was in love.
I finished with a sweet sherry which was like molten caramel in a really good way. The bill came to £45.73 for two, which after the pork and the sherry seemed ok for really good quality tapas which on the whole this was.
Having said that, we also found that many of those small but all-important touches that make a decent eating-out experience were lacking. For example we had to ask for olives at the start of the meal and were brought them as if it had been an oversight, only to later discover we had been charged for them. They were very nice olives but hardly worth £2.25p (there were about 8 in the bowl – the Asian in me worked this out to cost around 28p per olive).
Furthermore the waitress had sneakily added an extra £5.08p to our bill. Now, I don’t mind tipping, but the fact that they added on an optional tip for themselves without asking our permission seemed a bit rude and basically rendered it compulsory. These are the sort of small but proliferating factors that would make me think twice and maybe twice again, before deciding not to return, especially with Fino and Brindisa around the corner. The recent increase of decent tapas bars in London is fantastic and long-over due, as the competition can only serve to drive up prices and quality of places like this. When that happens here I might be tempted to return for that pork belly. Just not on a Friday.