I must admit the words ‘tapas’ and ‘shopping centre’ at first glance don’t seem to be a match made in heaven. However, if you’ve paid a visit to Newcastle over the last couple of months you’ll know that there are some serious foodie things going on — namely in the new Grey’s Quarter in Eldon Square.
I’ve tried a couple of the latest eateries that have popped up there as my youngest son is at university in Newcastle so food choices when we meet up are always top of my list as I worry he doesn’t eat enough. It’s a mum thing!
Boy was I excited when an invitation landed in my inbox for a tapas and beer pairing evening at the latest new kid on the ‘grey’ block, Tapas Revolution. The evening was to be hosted by the main man himself, chef and founder, Omar Allibhoy.
I’ll be truthful and say here that I hadn’t heard of this niche restaurant chain and tapas was something I only ever sampled on family hoildays so I was excited to try something very, very different.
First drink of the evening was a Spanish gin and tonic. Anyone who knows me knows I never refuse the offer of a g & t as it is my drink of choice — always. I’d never tried Spanish gin, though — it’s just not something I think of when I think of Spain but the restaurant has an expertly curated selection of regional botanicals. I chose a ‘Ginabelle’ — with a name like that it had to be lush. It’s a plum gin infused with red berry tea and served with my favourite Fever-Tree indian tonic and a pretty garnish of forest fruits. It hit the spot!
Once we were seated Omar came over and introduced himself and explained what we should expect from the evening. It turns out that beer is a BIG thing with tapas in Spain. Not sangria, not wine but beer. There is a beer for every sort of tapas. We were going to be introduced to four throughout the course of our tasting from the Estrella Galicia range of premium beers.
The first was this very light non alcoholic one. I really enjoyed this and could happily have drank this one all evening.
Food wise we were treated to tapas starters of toasted bread with Iberico ham, a classic Spanish omelette and the most scrumptious of deep fried croquettes oozing with the creamiest bechamel sauce.
Omar explained how he sources everything back home in Spain and imports it directly back to his unique chain of restaurants. At this point I could totally understand why ‘real’ tapas is so popular and why Omar is so passionate about introducing the real taste of Spain to us Brits.
I was totally in the moment and even tried octopus which I have refused forever. I was pleasantly surprised at how meaty it tasted and not at all fishy as I had always expected. Mr Bbed was very impressed when I returned home and told him as for years when on holiday he had always raved about it and tried to tempt me to taste.
Last but not least in this array of Galician gorgeousness was a chicken paella with green beans on a bed of saffron rice. Every single morsel was delicious.
The pièce de résistance ( sorry I realise that’s French but I haven’t forgotten I’m talking Spanish food here) was the dessert. Let me tell you now I’ve always been a dessert girl so no matter how full I am I have to have something sweet. The fact that this is tapas style really does mean that you don’t have to go without and no way will I miss out! Omar treat us to a heavenly Spanish twist on the classic bread and butter pudding. His version is a deep fried brioche steeped in custard and cinnamon. It was paired with the darkest of the Estrella beers called 1906 Black Coupage. It was almost stout like but better. Depth and darkness with elements of chocolate, coffee and liquorice. A match made in heaven.
Prior to my Tapas Revolution visit my experience of tapas was really one of nibbles enjoyed with pre dinner drinks but I was so wrong. Omar explained that his way is the real deal. It is a meal of stages enjoyed with family and friends and always best served with a selection of beers. We are really lucky that he has taken a chance on us North Easterners enjoying his food. The chain consists of seven restaurants so far and Newcastle being the most northerly of his growing empire. He really is working hard to put tapas on the map and his passion shines through in every little touch from the decor, his team and of course the food. I really hope his revolution conquers all palates. If you don’t try you truly are missing out on taste sensation.
I took a look at the main menu and I can’t wait to go back with Mr Bbed. The breakfasts look simply quite amazing.
Go find out for yourself: Tapas Revolution Newcastle