by Katey Baddeley 10 October 2012
I’ve been itching to grab a table at Legends Spanish Restaurant for years and, as luck would have it, the golden opportunity presented itself finally with no possibility of me turning it down.
A restaurant needs atmosphere to survive and there is just something so curiously stimulating and mysteriously suspense about scaling a flight of stairs to reach your dining destination. The rustic Spanish mood is pencilled in by a combination of brilliant terracotta walls and vintage bull fight graphic at the pinnacle of the ascent and driven home with an astute sense of finality as I eagerly pushed through the Legends threshold. One of the first things to note is the intoxicating scent of dark wood as you stand in an elevated space catching the last streams of golden sunlight through arched windows. The terracotta hue of traditional Spanish design again encircles the walls, which are dotted with more vintage posters, plaques of famous Spaniards and, interestingly, aged half wooden barrels in a similar fashion to how one would find antlers mounted proudly in an English country manor. I much prefer the liquor barrels.
Service here is excellent and we were promptly ferried a starting platter of grilled ciabata with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maldon sea salt and Jamon Iberico (Spanish cured ham). If you think all bread, salt, oil and ham are created equal then I implore you to think again. The grilled ciabata is aeratingly fluffy but carries a satisfying crunch, the olive oil is thick with both texture and flavour, the Maldon salt conveys unprecedented flavour profile (think intensely salty minus the commercial artificial tang) and, the jamon iberico is wonderfully moreish in all its ham driven glory. Combine everything together for a mouthful of pure savoury cileo.
A refreshing round of traditional Sangria and imported Spanish beer filled the intermission between starter and first round of tapas with comforting ease. I love the institution of tapas – it makes life so much easier. Where did the Western culture go wrong when declaring everyone have just the one meal? It’s both a highly unsociable way to dine and catalyst for serial plate-pinching shenanigans in my experience.
The first four tapas dishes consisted of chicken tenderloins grilled with garlic and brandy cream, champiñones (mushrooms) cooked in olive oil garlic and chilli, Gambas a la vasca (Basque prawns) in a tomato leek and red wine sauce and, grilled chorizo with bread sauce. The garlic chicken arrived with a neat stack of lightly perfumed saffron rice; perfectly complimenting the smoky tang of a brandy laced cream and grilled garlicky heat of the perfectly charred chicken. The Legends homely ramekin of mushrooms is just about the best mushroom dish around, with the soft, spongy texture of little champignons absorbing heat from both garlic and chilli, delivering a flavour infusion scant on fire but big on flavour. Call me picky, but if prawns are served coated in a sauce, I can’t stand having the tails present. Neither can my fellow diners for that matter, many of whom will attest as they are frequently flecked with some kind of sauce as I attempt to undress my crustaceans. Imagine my glee upon noticing these coral frocked, sauce coated creatures completely tail, head and shell free! The sauce was rich but light, sweet yet savoury and provided a well considered equilibrium to the creamy taste and texture of the tiny curled prawns. Then came the chorizo. Talk about saving the best for last – the smoky infusion of paprika smashed together with the griller makes for vibrant, juicy slithers of blackened pork sausage.
Our second round included scampi in saffron cream and vermouth sauce, Albondigas (Spanish meatballs) in a carrot and tomato sauce, Esparragos con jamon (fresh asparagus spears baked with Spanish ham), and Ternera – Eye fillet medallions on truffle oil mash. The scampi certainly looked enticing, and the flawless combination of cream, seafood, saffron and vermouth didn’t disappoint. The Spanish meatballs were soft, juicy and coated in a dreamy coagulative tomato based sauce spiked with the vibrant and unmistakable sweetness of sunset-hued carrot. The creamy fluffy clouds of truffle infused mash proved the perfect resting place for the thick slices of charred eye fillet, and the asparagus... well there are just some things you need to experience for yourself. The ham wrapped asparagus is one of them because it was simply too good for words.
I know I mentioned earlier the enjoyment of sharing plates of food amongst friends, but there is an exception to this rule in the form of Churros. This fried, cinnamon sugar dusted baton of golden dough can only be eaten piping hot with rich chocolate sauce and is best not shared. Come to think of it, similar sentiments for the delicate crepe filled with warm, silky-thick custard we were also presented with for dessert – both are just too good for sharing.
After 3 years of built up expectations, Legends Spanish restaurant impressed to no end. On a warmer night I can’t wait to make use of their terrace style balcony, sipping sangria, cocktails and sharing tid-bits of tapas with friends. If you’ve ever craved that little exotic twist of Spain in your life – you need to check it out. Disfrutar!
Check out Legends Spanish Restaurant Taste It Festival event! Tickets on sale now! Click here to buy
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