Sometimes living in Spain I feel I have had my fill of tapas. Friends, relatives and friends of friends visit, all in search of that elusive mecca, that divine mouthful of what they believe to be the epitome of Spanish cuisine, and unless you know the right place, many can leave disappointed. Thankfully the gods of the sharing plate are on the side of food this evening as we enter the divine and somewhat aptly named, El Tapas.
Opened a few years ago and located halfway up Paseo de Mallorca on the right-hand side of the torrent if you have your back to the upside-down church, is El Tapas de Flanigan. It is now considered one of the old guard of restaurants on what is a great fun street for eating and drinking in Palma, however it is still full of youthful exuberance and energy and is very much young at heart.
There is a beautiful terrace outside located under the arches, following the line of what used to be the old city walls, however, for me what I find special is dining inside. The attention to detail throughout is exquisite in its simplicity. The blues pop against the sparkling white tiles wherever you look and you are transported to a modern seaside tavern with a distinct nod to the nautical. Even the uniforms of striped blue and white t-shirts remind you that you are only a few hundred metres from our beloved fishing port.
Opened under the umbrella of Flanigans, one of the first restaurants to open in what was then the newly renovated Puerto Portals, its philosophy is the same as its 32 year old parent: “it is grounded in the concept of our restaurants as synonymous with the guarantee of quality and professional and attentive service. Our customers must get what they are seeking: efficient and quick service, staff focused on providing the best possible service, and also something different, for we aim to be distinctive. We also want our customers both to enjoy a delicious meal and have a happy time.” And it does not disappoint. We are greeted with a huge welcoming smile and quickly shown to a lovely table from where we can watch all of the coming and goings of the restaurant with its open kitchen, always a sign of confidence in my opinion.
The atmosphere is cheerful and buzzy and although we are eating fairly early all of the tables are full of laughing families, couples, groups and a few individuals at the heart of the action, dotted around the bar. It’s an eclectic mx of people and we run out of fingers as we try to count the different languages we can hear. There is a very international feel to the guest list and it is clear that its reputation reaches further than just a local clientele and as the dishes begin to appear at our table it is apparent as to why.
Guided by the expert hand of Head Chef Alejandro Doval, a young and creative chef whose family roots are from Galicia and Asturias, the food is full of flavour and only the freshest produce is used. It is clear that his native roots run through the dishes and he says that he loves to play and experiment with fresh and natural produce which is the basis of this refreshingly modern twist on a traditional tapas menu.
First up is my all-time favourite, from the very first time I tried it all those years ago, the Sagartoki Egg. Whilst it may sound a more Japanese than Spanish, Sagartoki is actually the small town that Alejandro hails from in Asturias and it is here that they have made this little parcel of deliciousness famous. And I have to thank them for allowing Alejandro to introduce them to us here in Palma. Taken all in one go, as you bite through the crisp outer layer, and at once hot egg yoke, mingled with a smoky flavour simply oozes into your mouth. The first time around it is utterly unexpected, however even after the tenth time it still surprises. The only problem with the dish is that you have to give it a moment to cool before you pop it in, and it sits staring at you tantalisingly as you wait. But it is absolutely worth that wait. Caroline, my wonderful guest photographer for the evening, was a newbie to the delights of the Sagartoki Egg and I always love to watch the expressions of those who haven’t tried it before. One of childish delight as the flavours explode.
This perfect introduction to the evening was quickly followed up by two of my favourite dishes on the menu, the seasonal Tomato Cojonudo Salad and the Fresh Anchovies in oil. There is something really special about these tomatoes, from the vibrancy of the colour, to the firmness of the texture and the taste…they taste full of the sunshine from the rolling Asturian hillsides from which they are picked. They are ripened to perfection and utterly delicious and the full-bodied flavour is the perfect complement to the anchovies, that are at once both delicately salty and sweet, with a glorious citrus undertone. Tapas heaven if you ask me.
After this the dishes come thick and fast: juicy Padron Peppers, crispy Fried Anchovies, clearly one of the favourites on the menu judging by the number we see coming out of the kitchen. A fabulous cod omelette with favours reminiscent of Nobu’s famous miso blackened cod dish, and finally the wonderfully succulent Iberico Pork cooked in the Canarian style with mojo picón sauce. All of this washed down with a glorious sangria, which tasted exactly like Spanish Summer in a glass.
El Tapas has the balance just right in everything it does. The portion sizes are the right size, the mixture of flavours are perfectly balanced, never bland, but equally never trying too hard. The service is fast and efficient, yet you never feel rushed. You could run in here for a quick snack or stay for an entire evening, slowly picking your way through the menu. It is equally at home catering for large groups as it is for individuals and it is clear that each and every person is important as the disabled facilities show.
So the next time you have people over to visit and you ask what they fancy to eat, with the perennial answer of tapas, then swing on by to El Tapas de Flanigans and prepare to start living that tapas dream again. Viva la Tapa!
Passeig Mallorca 20, 07012 Palma de Mallorca
+34 971 679 017
Review by Victoria Pearce
Photos Credit: @AnouskaFoss