I struggle ever so slightly reviewing tapas restaurants. The menus are (generally) quite similar; the dishes are often too simple or simply too small to yield complex or surprising flavour combinations; the tapas themselves arrive at random, throwing together ingredients that you'd never normally consider pairing. Wine matching can be hard for the same reason. It usually all adds up to a fun night but with so much going on it can be hard to form a clear opinion about the quality of the cooking.
Perhaps it's right that tapas should resist traditional analysis, though: tapas is street food, designed to be eaten in single snacks in multiple drinking establishments: the ultimate pubcrawl accompaniment. Constructing an entire meal out of such bitesized portions is a relatively recent conceit, albeit one now rolled out ubiquitously across all manner of different cuisines: Indian tapas anyone?
It may be hard to pin down an overall impression of restaurants in the face of such issues but it's easy enough to spot when things aren't working. Chorizo is as good a bellwether as you could ask for. It's a familiar staple that most people order; it should be a proud and fiery centrepiece of the Spanish smorgasbord. Too often what arrives is pappy, cold and underflavoured, swimming in stale oil and singularly offputting. I'm happy to say that Tierra Brindisa has no such failings.
Tierra Brindisa is one of three restaurants now operated by the expanding Brindisa empire. The first, Tapas Brindisa, has long been a favourite in the Borough Market area but unfortunately seems to be the favourite of the world and his dog so it's hellishly difficult to get a table. I'm saving myself for the final member of the mini-chain, Casa Brindisa, partly because I have to steel myself to go to West London these days but mostly because I was lucky enough to bag a space there at a forthcoming Dine with Dos Hermonos event, and I can't imagine more informed and enthusiastic tapas hosts than them.
Tierra Brindisa, tucked away in the heart of Soho, is a pleasing space, smart without being stuffy, and thus pitched about right for food that is a cut above standard tapas fare. As well as the excellent chorizo, here served in a spicy cider sauce that simply demanded to be necked after the meat was finished, we had "potato omelette", "pulpo" (what's with the weirdly bilingual menu, guys?), perfectly pink lamb cutlets, a hearty chick pea stew and a strange but (I thought) rather successful salad of cauliflower, chilli and grapefruit. All dishes were perfectly executed and many demonstrated the subtle heat that comes with a true understanding of how and why to use chilli peppers.
The only qualms, apart from all the veggie options turning up first when it was clearly the carnivore who was fainting from hunger, were one or two missing dishes from the menu. Hardly the crime of the century, and certainly no reason not to herald Tierra Brindisa an excellent addition to West End dining.
Tierra Brindisa 46 Broadwick Street W1F 5AF 020 7534 1690