¡A Comer! – Tapas Revolution
Nothing but starters, spending £££ and having to share them all. This was how tapas was described to me back in my formative years. Knowing next to nothing about the country let alone the cuisine; days, weeks, years went by sin tapas en mi vida. I knew that I could find a high-street chain quite easily should I ever be persuaded to, but why would I want to share my expensive starters?
Flash forward to Circa 2015/16. I find myself in Puerto de la Duquesa in a no-frills bar, a caña in one hand and about 4 tapas in the other, all for about €5. This was the introduction to tapas I needed and previously had been so cruelly denied.
This meeting came by the way of a proud Andalusian I had met in the UK, she didn’t just bring tapas into my life but the country, culture, language and people. I fell in love with all of it, even to the point where I spent my evenings learning another language (can you imagine – a Brit going to all that trouble!)
The Spaniard in question had to listen to me butcher her language and tell anyone that would listen, and even more that wouldn’t, how my first tapas experience was an authentic Spanish one and that I bloody love Pimiento de Padrón! I know for a fact she regrets taking me to Spain, but like The Conquistadors of old, I will conquer this language and win the hearts and minds of the people while eating all the tapas!
This is quite a long-winded intro, but I wanted to show the emotion and passion I feel about the country and the food although it is pale in comparison to that shown by Omar Allibhoy, as he opened his flagship Tapas Revolution in Westfield Stratford City this October, his eighth so far.
This is the largest Tapas Revolution to date, and I was taken aback by the balance between an authentic Madrileño tapas bar and a contemporary/modern feel of a bustling Stratford restaurant. At 2,600 square feet, the restaurant with outdoor terrace accommodates over 100 covers plus standing at the bar, offering guests an authentic taste of Spain in one of London’s busiest shopping destinations (I heard over 50 million visitors in a year)!
When speaking to Omar, what struck me the most was his love of authenticity and tradition, “…it is a tradition for a reason…”, this was showcased by four beautiful handmade tiled mosaic walls inspired by Estrella Galicia. Each representing the rich and colourful history of Spain, beautiful and atmospheric, leading us straight to the food itself.
The menu includes Jamón Ibérico (cured Iberian ham), made from acorn-fed black Iberian pigs, and Tapas Revolution Stratford features the group’s largest display. I don’t think I have ever had bad Ibérico and Tapas Revolution certainly didn’t buck that trend!
Omar’s signature dishes include slow-roasted Iberian pork shank served with roasted piquillo peppers and tomato tapenade (Codillo de Cerdo Asado), pan-roasted loin of cod served with slow-cooked red peppers and green olive salsa verde (Bacalao con Piperrada y Olivas), a selection of Paellas (available in two sizes) to share amongst friends, along with the classic Valencian made with black rice (arroz negro).
Each Paella is made with rice from the Albufera wetlands, handmade stock, saffron, smoked paprika, and served in the traditional wide-bottomed pan from which the dish gets its name.
Not to be exclusive, Tapas Revolution also caters for the vegan and vegetarian diners amongst us, with a vegan Paella on offer, crispy fried aubergines with spiced muscovado syrup (Berenjenas Fritas) and Vegan Alioli (unique to Tapas Revolution).
For the thirsty shopper, Tapas Revolution has an extensive beverage offering. Sticking with authenticity as a theme, Omar has brought the largest selection of Cavas to the people of Stratford, 23 by the bottle and 6 by the glass, including those from Codorníu, pioneers within the Cava industry and the oldest and most prestigious producer in Spain.
A trip to Tapas Revolution allowed me to feel smug and pretentious by enjoying authentic and delicious tapas (just as I felt years ago in that bar in Sabinillas) but in my home city. This is something I did not think was possible but falls directly in line with ‘crusader for Spanish food and culture’ mission, to bring great affordable tapas for all.
And at the very least, Omar has allowed me to write a long-overdue love letter to Spain and sign off in a way I have wanted to for years. ¡Viva la revolución!
Tapas Revolution – Westfield Stratford City, 145 The Street, Westfield Stratford City, E20 1EN, England.
Tel: +44 (0)208 221 1437
Tapas Revolution is located in the heart of Westfield Stratford City, a short walk from Stratford Station on the Central and Jubilee lines as well as the DLR. If driving, Westfield Stratford City has 4,500 parking spaces across three car parks. The restaurant is open Monday to Thursday from 11:00am to 11:00pm; Friday from 11:00am to midnight; Saturday from 10:00am to midnight and Sunday from 10:00am to 9:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Spanish Café Bar & Restaurant
Price Band: Medium and very reasonably priced
Insider Tip: Book the VIP bodega booths complete with a ‘Press for Cava’ button.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Sam Brady is a London based freelance writer and photographer covering travel and lifestyle.
Photographs by Matt Pereira