REVIEW: Bravas Tapas, St Katherine Dock, Tower Hamlets

Is there a theme in new restaurant openings this year you ask? The answer is no. Every different type of cuisine is now opening in London, down every side street, on every hill and on every day. It is utterly crazy. I recently decided on the ambitious task of starting a new ‘Opening Soon‘ page – it now takes up the majority of my life to keep the thing updated. Everyday a new restaurant is open, changing their opening date and adding soft launch details. The only plus side to it all is that sometimes, and definitely not always, great new restaurants do open – and Bravas Tapas is one of them.
Backing Bravas Tapas are two big names. Victor Garvey (American chef previously working in Spain), and Bal Thind (restaurateur & original investor in Hakkasan). Victor Garvey is an accomplished chef who grew up and worked in Barcelona before buying is own restaurant in Marbella back in 2010. His menu here at Bravas Tapas is actually very traditional but with a few twists and turns along the way – mostly in its presentation.
We unfortunately didn’t get to experience the full menu apparently, but what we did get was fantastic! So surely it can only get better from here. Perhaps a very bold statement (but an accurate one) the best gazpacho i have ever had. Served in a funky purpose made wine glass, all the key ingredients sat in the base of the glass before the smooth cold tomato soup is slowly poured over. It was heavenly, meant for sharing – but i didn’t want to.

Patatas bravas served with bravas salsa and whipped-to-order aioli were very, very good indeed. Crunchy potatoes, well seasoned and very fluffy. The bravas salsa and whipped aioli was absolutely delicious. Why whipping aioli is not more widespread i do not know – but it makes it even better and a little lighter on the tummy.

The classic pan con tomate here was just as i remember it in Jerez, bringing back lots of memories of sun and sherry. The bread was a little on the crispy side but given a few minutes for the olive oil and garlic laden tomato mixture to seep in, it all made sense. Prices here at Bravas Tapas were sometimes on the high side, compared with occasional small portions – this definitely needs attention. Though this dish on the other hand at £3, was a bargain.

When i was talking about price/portion ratio this dish is one of those culprits. Three delicious cheeses, quince, sweet fruit (which i have no idea) and that crispy bread again. Here the bread is far to crunchy and crumbly it makes eating it with the cheese a real effort. The cheeses were lovely but tiny and probably just as much rind as there was actual cheese.

Moorish spiced (illusive meat rub) lamb chops with aioli were the highlight of what Bravas Tapas really do well. Which is cooking meat. Perhaps a little pricey at £8 for two very small chops but they were exquisite. They may even look a little undercooked, but they weren’t. Salty, juicy, astounding flavour and a pure taste of lamb. But it really is gone in only a couple of bites. I think the trick is, not to share this one, or order two – for yourself.

The idea of using a knife and forks here at Bravas Tapas are completely thrown out of the window. Instead you’re armed with some tongs. Yet it works really well and gives that air of sharing, relaxed and informal – but don’t be afraid to using your hands and get stuck in.  The braised beef short rib on the other hand is the one dish that isn’t as user friendly. The beef was tender and falling apart at the touch but the fat which holds it together was insistent on me having to put the whole thing in my mouth – which frankly, wasn’t going to happen. The flavour was rich and meaty – but just that. Pedro ximenez sauce was visible but tasted nothing much more than a regularly gravy and the garlic mash was very smooth, but didn’t contain enough garlic.

Cod esqueixada, which is thinly sliced fresh cod with black olives, bravas salsa and radish salad was underwhelming. The fish was fresh but all its components were bland and there was no excitement at all to be had. A real shame because esqueixada when done well, can be excellent.

Desserts were a limited on our lunch (to one), but i was assured there would be far more of a selection in a few days. Yes our chosen dessert was much more suited next to a coffee and newspaper but it was still really good. Torta de Santiago (almond cake originating from Galicia) was served with some very well made morello cherry sorbet and salted almonds on the side. It was very deliciate and not something i would normally order – but i thoroughly enjoyed it.
Did i like Bravas Tapas? I loved it. Fantastic decor, wonderful staff and in a gorgeous area with alfresco dining. Its has all the components for a fantastic restaurant and as i said, one which i think is only going to get better. So if you’re in the area, go – and if you’re not then jump on a train because Bravas Tapas is not to be missed. Especially in the summer.

Bravas Tapas on Urbanspoon

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