There are few things better in this world than pan con tomate. Few things more simple. Bread with tomato. No fancy cooking techniques, no long list stating the provenance of all the ingredients. Yet it’s a dish that so many restaurants get wrong. Often the bread is soggy having stood pre-prepped hours before service, or they aren’t brave enough with that rub of garlic, or there’s big chunks of tomato rather than the finer pulp spread across the bread. Recently a Spanish restaurant presented me with a full tomato, a slice of toast, an unpeeled garlic clover and olive oil. DIY pan con tomate. The lazy bastard of a chef must have been on his siesta. Needless to say the rest of the meal was just as disappointing. A good pan con tomate to start a meal off makes a big promise. It shows a confidence from the kitchen that they will let the ingredients do the talking, and at Brindisa they get it spot on. What followed was ingredients put together, rather than dishes- Spanish cooking at its best. Padron peppers with salt. Summer vegetables with chorizo and a duck egg. Prawns with crispy garlic and a fiery kick of chilli. Pork fillet served pink with sweet peppers and some chorizo oil.
All Spanish restaurants know what to do with a potato and here the chorizo tortilla was as good as any. But the Huevos Rotos was the star of the show. If ever a dish was designed to soak up last night’s booze then this is it. It’s the hair-of-the-dog of dishes. So good that you’re ordering an Estrella half way through it. Served in a small pan the slices of potato are glued together with the rich egg yolk and have a lick of salt and colour from the chorizo. Offered this or Kendall Jenner as a last dish to feast on before I die, and I’d probably take this.
Brindisa has a lot of competition- not only for Spanish restaurants in London- but set on the corner of Borough Market, you only have to walk five yards to get stuck into a a range of cheap lunches. But it continues to hold it’s own. It’s not quite as adventurous or refined as Barrafina or those in the Salt Yard Group- but for it’s sheer simplicity, it remains my favourite spot for a weekend lunch.