Paco Tapas: Exquisite Spanish flavours on Bristol’s waterfront
A lot of positive things have been said about the Michelin-starred Paco Tapas in Bristol, so we couldn’t skip paying it a visit whilst in town. Strategically located by the waterfront at the Bristol docks, and right next to their other two restaurants, Casamia and Pi Shop, Paco Tapas exudes Andalusian Spain. Through their doors you can find an interior with panelled tiles under the bar, wooden tables and an open kitchen where the smell of its smokey grill fills the air like perfume. Their changing menu is presented on cardboard-coloured paper and it combines fresh, local produce with the most authentic Spanish creations, anything from Jamon de Bellota or Ensalada de Tomate to less traditional dishes.
On top of their à la carte menu, Paco Tapas – named after the chef’s father – curates a tasting menu of 12 bite-sized plates for £120 – a great option for those wanting a complete overview. For the wine lovers, this restaurant is also a good reference to find unique Spanish wine (like the sweet Tenerifian Trenzado or the stronger Tempranillo reserva Torre de Ona), sherries and various cocktails.
We were completely blown away by the presentation and the flavours of each of the pieces on the menu. From the olive oil to the consistency and tenderness of the Gambas al Ajillo, you can feel the carefulness they put into the plate and the love of food that the Sanchez-Iglesias family uses to drive their business forward. We kicked the lunch off with a tapa of manzanilla olives paired with some grilled sourdough covered in drizzles of extra virgin olive oil: simple, yet full of contrast and truly reflective of the snacks you could find in any part of the flamenco country.
The Chorizo Iberico, perfectly cut in thin slices, came in right after with the ham croquettes, their béchamel’s hypnotic gooeyness interrupted by strongly flavoured bits of jamon – just incredible. As a balance to this, the Ensalada de Tomate was served before the gambas and the Cornish fish. We believe the salad deserves a special mention, since it’s really hard to find tomatoes that taste this good in any restaurant around the UK, even in London. The sweetness and intensity of the red fruit, mixed with the olive oil kick, made for one of the best salads – and the best tomatoes, of course – we’ve had so far.
Another of our favourite tapas were the Boquerones, referred to as “European anchovies”, served in a glorious concoction of oil and lemon juice that plays greatly against the saltiness of the anchovy, covered with transparent-thin slices of garlic and dill. A gift to the senses, and a dish that transports you to summer lunches in Spain.
The Gambas al Ajillo are two beautiful prawns covered in a spicy pepper sauce, accompanied by another brilliantly cooked seafood dish, the Cornish Fish, done in the grill and then layered with a brush of manteca (aka pork fat), served with half a grilled lemon to enhance its subtle and fatty flavour – simply superb.
Another of the highlights of the afternoon were Paco’s Duroc Pork Ribs and the date and pork-filled quail. Both exquisite, the quail being the more complex of the two. The sweetness of the dates and the spices blend with the meat perfectly and contrast it in a sweet and savoury dance.
Although the chef’s menu only features one dessert, the lemony Crema Catalana, we went the extra mile and asked for a second one, the Chocolate Mousse with Toast and Olive Oil. Neither of them disappoints, but if we had to pick one we’d go with the more traditional and crusty crema catalana, a custard-based dessert with a very characteristic burnt sugar crust.
Paco Tapas is probably one of the best Spanish restaurants you could visit outside Spain, and that’s a big compliment. Quality of produce combined with perfectionism drive Paco’s kitchen.
Photos: Maria Barrios
To book a table at Paco Tapas, 3A The General Lower Guinea St Bristol BS1 6SY, call 0117 925 7021 or visit their website here.