Advantages Fantastic food and prices
Disadvantages Smoky inside (but only until July)
INTRODUCTIONFinally I have the opportunity to review what is widely regarded as the best tapas in these parts. There are five tapas restaurants in Breda and this is by far the most popular of them. It is located in a side street opposite the library just off the main square and this is the first time this year I have managed to eat here, such is the demand for dining there. I only managed to eat here once last year and I was very impressed with it at the time. Can they repeat the trick with my high expectations? Add to this our resident Catalonian tapas expert, Barcelona Boy and his expertise and pickiness with the genre, who was also in attendance. This was promising to be an interesting dinner.
A DISCLAIMERAt this point, I have to concede that my companions and myself were somewhat well lubricated at the point in the evening when we arrived. This is not a good combination when trying to review somewhere. I do have to say though I thoroughly enjoyed the night, which was one of those where no one actually plans to go out on the tiles, but end up in a late bar still in high spirits before they realise what's happened. We did scarper from the bar we repaired to after dinner once the Dutch music started up though (you don't want to know - really).
And so a little insight into my writing process. My reviewing technique is to take crib notes whilst I eat, and my friends here are quite familiar with this habit on mine, and so usually have comments to add on their dishes which I furiously scribble down. As I write this review I am trying to decipher some random shapes with bits of sauce all over them on 2 scrunched up A4 pages. Now my writing is pretty spidery at the best of times, so I apologize if I've missed anything from this review due to dodgy notes and hazy recollections. For example:"Sore - ached for her, talks a white fish!"
I think I actually meant "Service - waited for her, takes a while for each dish!"I also have "A LOT OF DRUNK DUTCH!" screaming at me in capitals from the page but methinks that was a bit rich coming from our group.
Here are some other things it took me a while to work out."Hanlore snookers here!" = "Hardcore smokers here!"
"Not all mattresses spread Sp" = "Not all waitresses speak Spanish""Tell truth about civic!" = "Tell truth about wine!"
The name FEBO is actually a bit of a Dutch in joke. In many towns, there is a fast food chain called Febo, which serves deep fried food like croquettes and French fries that you buy from dispensers in a wall or fresh from a counter. You just put the money in and pop the hot dish out from the dispenser. Now in this case, FEBO is an abbreviation for "Federacion de Espanoles De Brabante Occidental", which according to Barcelona Boy roughly translates as "West Brabant Spanish Federation". Barcelona Boy doesn't think it actually is a federation, but it's a good name nevertheless. Now I always thought Breda was in the North Brabant region, so I am a bit puzzled by that, but West Brabant College is here, so who knows. Incidentally, I just found out that South Brabant is actually in Belgium, which explains a lot, as I could never work out how we were in the North near to the Belgian border.The restaurant always seems packed to the rafters and this was no exception. We were advised to come at 8pm when there would be more chance of getting a table, and I think we waited for about half an hour for one. It's only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and so the locals like to make the most of it when they can. I also found it a bit smoky, with a lot of smokers in attendance. Err, or was that just on our table? Oh hang on no, remember from the notes "Hardcore smokers here!" As we had to wait sometime for a table to become available, this gave us the opportunity to occupy a small space near the bar with some San Miguels, just to make sure we were completely off our trolleys by the time the food arrived.
There were mostly tables for 4, which in fact had about 8 people on them. This is certainly a popular destination for big groups of men or women, a mostly young crowd. One of our number uncharitably opined that the clientele weren't really enjoying the place or appreciating it in the right way but showing off in a "look at me, I'm in a Spanish restaurant!" manner. I wouldn't quite go that far, but there is definitely an element of kudos to being seen in here. Behind us was a table of 30 something ladies having it large. Hang on, and we weren't? To add to the ambience, Spanish music was played at quite high volume. At the end, they started to play South American funk salsa kind of music, or so my notes say anyway; they could have been playing Napalm Death and I probably wouldn't have remembered.The floor was covered with brown tiles, which can be a Spanish style but in this case I would surmise this as co-incidental. On the ceiling in the middle of the room was a large wagon wheel suspended by chains. The restaurant is mostly hidden from the street by 2 large red curtains in the windows, though you are able to peek in and see if you have any chance of getting a table. The white walls had some rather interesting decorations. There were several posters advertising Spain and Madrid. In the corner was a picture of the Spanish king and queen. There was a Goya print and a painting of the surrender of Breda to the Spanish, a historical event that I'm sure the expats revel in. A light brown shelf at shoulder height ringed the walls, and has all sort so Spanish objects dotted about on them. There was also some kind of cabinet that had trophies or something in it. Small half wagon wheels were the fixtures for the wall lighting, which I thought was pretty cool. A TV sits in a corner next to the bar, which to the right of the entrance with some high stools. I've never seen anything other than Spanish football on the TV.
Remember in my notes "Not all waitresses speak Spanish", which made Barcelona Boy, frown a bit (didn't stop him stuffing his face, though).I am informed the ladies loo was a bit dirty, and the gents perhaps needed attention too, but if you ask me that only adds to the experience.
THE FOODWe had quite a few dishes. I didn't touch half of them as they were pig laden, and so any opinions on those are from a third party. I'm also blaming Barcelona Boy for any typos in the Spanish dish names.
Pan - first up was a sliced white baguette served with some aioli. The bread was as fresh, soft and tasty as you'd expect here. The aioli was only oil & garlic, so I'm told by Barcelona Boy. He also reckoned that the bread crust wasn't crispy enough, but it was still OK. As I said, it didn't stop him eating it.Queso Manchero - we then got some thin triangular slices of cheese, which was soft, not too dry and mild. This was very tasty and a nice dish to follow up and compliment the bread.
Boquerones Fritos - These are small, whole fishes deep fried so that you can eat the head and bones too, although in some cases they were too brittle and sharp for that. You could taste the oil in these and they were very tasty; crispy and full of flavour. The slice of lemon served with it helped bring out the taste when squeezed.Calamares - the batter on the squid was crispy and tasty, although perhaps a touch plentiful. They tasted fresh, not frozen and were wolfed down pretty quickly. They weren't chewy at all but easily bitten and chewed, which is always a good sign.
Jamon Patanegra - the white spots on this ham apparently signified good quality. This was salty but soft, and didn't stick in the throat. Apparently.Lomo Iberico - this pig stuff was apparently soft, tasty and also didn't stick in the throat. I saw the others wolf it down appreciatively so I assume it was pretty good.
Albondigas - spicy piggy meatballs but not hot, I am told they had a pleasantly peppery taste.Lomo A La Plancha - this was tasty and not dry. The toppings were good. Hey don't ask me, you're lucky I even mentioned the porky stuff, OK!
Tortilla - this was a very good Spanish omelette; it was pleasantly moist but not undercooked and again gets a big thumbs up from Barcelona Boy. It was a nice firm consistency and had the pleasant mingling tastes of the eggs and potato.Patatas fritos - just French fries really but nevertheless tasty with some aioli. They weren't frozen either so more brownie points there.
Alitas De Pollo - these chicken wings were red hot when they came to our table, and once they had cooled down a bit, we found them to be very tasty and not at all spicy. A plain dish cooked in the oven, they nevertheless had a good taste.Gambas A La Plancha - as a special treat to make up for the porky portions, I was allowed to scoff all these large prawns (or were they langoustine?) myself! They were beautifully presented - whole shrimps in their shells with 2 wodges of lemon. It was quite a job to peel them as they were very slippery with oil, and it looked like 6 and not 3 to my sozzled brain, but they were lovely; crispy and so not overcooked on the grill, and marinated in oil.
THE SERVICEWell I think this was OK, and although the notes said "Service - waited for her, takes a while for each dish!" considering the place was crammed I think this is fair enough. It doesn't matter too much with tapas as you're just eating food as it arrives. The waitresses were always polite and friendly (well to Barcelona Boy anyway, who we left all the ordering work to). They mistakenly undercharged us by 10 Euros, and so we made sure that we pointed this out and paid in full. I am curious if any of the financially "careful" locals would have followed our example.
CONCLUSIONWell you can't beat the food that's for sure, and even Barcelona Boy was happy with the tapas here; a rare accolade indeed from a man who has dismissed out of hand all 4 of the other tapas restaurants in town on grounds of taste. As this is owned and run by a Spanish family, it's totally authentic; the mum seems to be the chief cook. The price isn't half bad either, the dishes mostly ranged between 3 and 5 Euros each. You may have to wait for a table, and pick the time and day that you come, but look no further if you want the genuine article. I can't pay them a higher compliment than that.
Telephone : 076-5144994
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