Walking into España is slightly confusing for the senses. The windowless space is moodily lit, boasting a purpley glow. Gaudy gold (empty) frames hang above a regal velvet chair at the entrance. On the far walls are moving images of roads, sped-up cars whizzing by. A DJ plays techno and deep house.
It’s not chilled-out, but if you’re here for a party, that’s fine. If you’re here for dinner at 8pm on a weeknight (as just a handful of people are when we visit), it’s not the most relaxing place you’ll find to eat. Undeterred, we head to sit out on the small terrace and peruse the menu, which is an exciting mix of traditional and quirkier tapas.
All the usual suspects are available – tortilla Española, beef empanadas, cold cuts – so you won’t be disappointed if you like your Spanish food.
Feeling adventurous we choose some lesser-seen dishes – starting off with beetroot and goat’s cheese croquetas and “pollo loco”. We gently open up the former to find a delightfully creamy, purple centre. They’re rich, but an accompanying salad with a citrusy-sweet dressing cuts through any heaviness.
The pollo loco is less inspiring, and not very “loco”, being in essence shredded smoked chicken with mushrooms and almonds in a mayo dressing.
This is saved by the prawns al ajillo. Plump, juicy prawns come in a light, garlicky dressing, with a slice of toasted bread to mop up the delicious juices. It’s authentic yet modern.
España is not your typical tapas restaurant. Dishes are presented silver-service style, rather than the usual free-for-all and inevitable scramble over the last padron pepper. This makes it feel more refined, but less rustic and relaxed. And, again, slightly confusing.
The bill (for two) 1x padron peppers Dhs29 1x croquetas de queso Dhs39 1x pollo loco Dhs35 1x fried mozzerella Dhs50 1x tuna tumbada Dhs50 1x prawns al ajillo Dhs65 Total (excluding service) Dhs268 The bottom line Some decent dishes but in a venue with a slightly odd vibe.