Café Tapas, a new restaurant at Jawahar Nagar, has some wholesome Spanish and Mediterranean fare

The Spanish love hanging out at their local tapas bars where they can have a drink and dine on platters full of tapas (canapés) as different as green olives skewered on a stick, boquerones (anchovies marinated in vinegar), deep fried calamari and chorizos cooked in wine. Café Tapas, run by George Kuruvilla and his wife, Maria, introduced the concept to the city a couple of years ago and it quickly found flavour with foodies. Now, Café Tapas has had a makeover – it’s been moved to more spacious premises on O-Street, House No. 1, Jawahar Nagar, and its menu has been completely revamped to include more of traditional Mediterranean-Iberian fare.

The new restaurant is informal dining at its charming best, decorated in a rainbow of colours – airy whites, with splashes of cheery yellows, bright blues, pastel pinks, splashes of red and green… giving the space the feel of a Greek taverna. We opt to dine outside and make ourselves comfortable underneath the shade of a tree, on cane chairs that surround a vintage storage box that goes for a table.

The menu is quintessentially Spanish (‘pollo’ is chicken and is pronounced poyo). The number of items is limited, but intriguing enough to set our taste buds on overdrive. We decide to first quench our thirst. George recommends the Salt refresher, though we’re keener on one of the fresh fruit juices. “Be adventurous,” he says, piquing our interest. It turns out to be thick, piquant tamarind juice, that’s as sweet as its sour. Yes it’s refreshing, but definitely not for the faint hearted!

Straight off we order the restaurant’s signature tapas platter. Before she goes in to make it for us, petite Maria, a Spaniard of Maldivian origin, who hails from Barcelona, says: “Tapas is often had as a meal in itself. Usually a platter will have three dishes, one of which is vegetarian. Every three days we change the tapas on the platter. ” Lucky for us, we get dishfuls of button mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and pepper, scrumptious chilli crab lollipops and calamari rings.

As soon as we’re done with the tapas, it’s onto Ensalada de pollo – a huge platter of shredded grilled chicken on a bed of crunchy salad of vegetables, drizzled with honey mustard cream and parmesan cheese, which we’ve chosen over Ensalada de Homerto (vegetable salad with Mediterranean herbs and olive oil dressing) and Potato salad (potatoes with onion and bits of ham).

None of us are in the mood for Bocadillos – Spanish sandwiches that come in a variety of fillings. So we order from the extensive list of pastas.

There is Spaghetti Bolognese, Farfalle with pesto sauce, Tagliatelle Carbonara… and an intriguing dish called Shalu’s Choice. “A friend, Shalini, asked me to make her a spicy pasta dish with sausages and cheese. Fusilli tossed in olive oil, with chorizo (Iberian pork sausage), red chilli flakes, and parmesan cheese was the result. It became an instant hit with customers and we decided to introduce it in the new menu,” says Maria.

We too thought it was scrumptious, a wonderful blend of the East and the West.

Bet you are wondering why there is no paella (Spanish fried rice) on a menu that’s essentially Spanish.

“Paella, because it takes a long time to prepare, is available only on order,” explains George. For those foodies who are into other exotic cuisines, Café Tapas also has a list of choice dishes inspired by world cuisine. For instance, Tom Yum Gung with rice, Red curry with rice, Pad Thai and so on represent Thai cuisine. From Indonesia there’s Nasi Goreng and from Mexico there’s burritos and quesadillas. Must try dishes are Kerala style buffalo olath and duck curry.

The café also has an interesting selection of desserts such as banana bread, banana muffin, choco-chip cookies and so on all made by Maria, who is a bit of a dessert queen.

On weekends the restaurant has a live barbeque counter.

The restaurant is open from 10.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. Contact: 09995989709.