It’s a rare achievement for a restaurant when every dish you’ve ordered elicits curiosity, anticipation, and excitement.
In most tapas bars the old standard dishes have their place in our hearts but are unlikely to set pulses racing. Iberian, Anglo Saxon or otherwise.
Unlike the recently opened Pabellón, a rather super town centre venue which serves genuinely original, beautifully put-together plates of modern Spanish food and East Asian flavours in a superbly designed new restaurant space within a listed Regency building.
Pabellón is an offshoot of Circo, formerly known as Senor Buddha, a popular little spot near Preston Circus, which in the space of three years carved out a loyal following and generally ‘took the fear out of fusion.’
Circo regulars will recognise elements of the original concept at Pabellón. Unsurprisingly the superb salt and pepper calamares with a brilliant black garlic and squid ink sauce has made the short journey across town.
In addition to the familiar Circo creations there are some marvellous new flavour combinations abound, with dishes which are refined rather than hearty.
The eponymous Pulpo Pabellón is thing of wonder, not just for the perfectly seared suckers but also for the fondant potato covered in an intense sauce made from sobrassada sausage (a chorizo-style Balearic Islands banger) which reduced my largely loquacious dining partner to near-speechless gushing.
Andalucian head chef Raul Gomez Gonzalez has devised a fabulous fine dining tapas menu which is brimming with Spanish cuisine from the roads less travelled by UK restaurants. These include Papas Arrugadas, wrinkled potatoes from the Canary Isles, and the criminally moreish Bunyols De Vent, Catalan doughnuts with a gloriously gooey palm sugar caramel filling, and some chilli ginger chocolate to boot.
The Asian influence seems to have been dialled down somewhat, although a glance at the menu shows ingredients such as pak choi, pickled chilli. Tofu and Wakame Seaweed are still very much in evidence, and a distinctly non-traditional Spanish ingredient was the prime mover behind my favourite dish - a coriander alioli which was a wonderful creative accompaniment to the flat iron steak.
All of the lovingly dressed dishes look at home at the new venue, a Grade II listed building which was once part of the Royal Pavilion (hence the name). It’s as well-constructed as the carefully-plated food and cleverly designed with dark charcoal coloured walls offset by plenty of reflective, golden surfaces, and copper fittings.
Spanish elements such as tiles, gilt and dark woods sit well with more contemporary styling, and the layout conspires to draw your eye to the bustling open kitchen. The best seats in the house are there, overlooking the action, but on our visit the whole venue was buzzing and all was good in this smart new joint.
By Steve Holloway - firstname.lastname@example.org