Nestled down a ginnel off Deansgate, I was expecting something quite different from La Bandera. But with a menu of seasonal dishes that’s updated daily, I was definitely wrong to think I had their number before even stepping inside.
The restaurant is far from the wooden-clad, clichéd tapas bar cluttered with artwork and the obligatory hanging hams. Owner Yashin Dadashnejad is trying to do something a bit different, and this is evident in the enticing, varied menu and fresh, bright but cosy interior.
There are plenty of options at La Bandera, and you can go for 3 courses or tapas style dining. I have to admit we were erring on the side of sampling some delicious sounding mains but there were too many things we wanted to try so it had to be tapas.
To drink we opted for, Alhambra Reserva 1925, a really tasty, malty Spanish lager with enough punch to stand up to bold flavours whilst retaining a nice freshness to cleanse the palette. And take it from me, at 6.5% a few of those will definitely set you on your way to a night well spent.
We began with the hearty White Bean and Chorizo Stew, which also came topped with morcilla, a brilliant Spanish black pudding, which differs from the British variety in that rice is used rather than barley to hold the sausage together.
This was followed by Octopus with Paprika on a bed of potatoes, lightly seasoned so as to really showcase the tenderness of the seafood, it was a firm favourite of mine.
Pan Fried Scallops with Chorizo is always a bit of a classic combination and this was a good rendition, crispy pieces of pork sausage and perfectly seared scallops. Something new to me were the Squid Ink Croquettes, a delicate dough stained black with squid ink and deep fried, they were beautifully rich and moreish.
King prawns can sometimes be a bit of a let-down in my experience but these were anything but, served in garlic and parsley oil they were cooked to perfection.
Traditional Spanish Meatballs were succulent and supplemented with nicely spiced sauce. King prawns can sometimes be a bit of a let-down in my experience but these were anything but, served in garlic and parsley oil they were cooked to perfection.
Baby Wrinkled Potatoes with spicy Canarian garlic sauces was recommended to us as a speciality from the owner’s neck of the woods and they were really tasty, home-style cooking at its best.
Chicken Strips in honey chilli sauce on a bed of onions, peppers and tomatoes were a little on the sweet side for me but tasty nonetheless. To finish things off was Diced Fillet Steak with garlic, olive oil and serrano ham on roast potatoes, which was as good as that sounds.
I think Spanish cooking is often about letting, as with that dish, the great ingredients do their thing without too much influence from herbs and spices. That sort of ethos was present throughout the meal, there was some real top class cooking coming out of the kitchen, but nothing was overly showy.
For dessert I had Jardin del Teide, a sort of Tenerife take on tiramisu, served in a coffee cup and every bit as creamy and decadent as any Italian dessert, I have to admit it finished me off.
There was also a bit of food envy as my companion chose the Torrijas, a traditional Spanish dessert served during lent, I’m told. It was a fantastic cross between creme brulee and French toast and came soaked in coconut milk and topped with fresh fruit.
The bad news is my camera broke halfway through the review, so if you want to see this magnificent morsel, you’re just going to have to go and find out for yourself!