The first thing to know about Tapas Club at Orchard Central Singapore is that their Homemade Sourdough Bread ($5) – baked fresh daily – is very good, and very addictive. Toasted just enough for each slice to be crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle, the humble carb makes for an ideal snack to tide you through your initial hunger, as you step into the restaurant. The bread itself tastes like it had been kneaded by the hands of a quaint, old grandmother, as if every grain were a labour of love. Each bite is reminiscent of the rustic charm of a countryside cottage. Just like every other Spanish tapas in this joint.
And rustic, this newly-opened establishment certainly is, with its kaleidoscopic wall tiles and red accents invoking the breezy interiors of traditional Spanish architecture. But this is not all. Authentic flavours from abroad are brought straight to your plate, unadulterated, save for the occasional source of ingredients. For more than to remain true to their Spanish roots, the restaurant’s co-chefs, José Alonso and Munuel Berganza, are committed to using only the freshest of ingredients in their dishes. Locally-sourced ingredients, hence, feature prominently on the menu alongside aioli, chorizo sausages, and Idiazabal cheese – amongst other foreign and unpronounceable names.
The result of such a combination is most evident in the Gambas al Ajillo ($12.90), which consists of prawns sautéed with garlic and parsley. From the moment you sink your teeth into it, the origins of the prawns are betrayed, for no amount of seasoning can mask the familiar taste of our native tiger prawns. Strange as it may be for such a local taste to surface in a quintessentially Spanish dish, the sweetness of the prawns lends itself unexpectedly well to the refreshing lightness of the sauce, conjuring up a burst of tasty goodness unlike any other.
On the other hand, the Patatas Bravas ($9.90) presents an entirely different situation in itself, for the unassuming potato cubes, coated in sauce, resemble the diced potato dish that pops up at local Chinese economical rice stalls. Thus, nothing quite prepares you for the tangy kick you get when you take your first mouthful of the deep-fried potatoes, and are stunned by just how marvelous the concoction of brava and alioli sauce is.
Alas, what’s a Spanish meal without paella? The joint offers five variations on this Spanish classic, each as satisfying as the other, but the standout is undoubtedly the Fideuá Negra ($25). It departs from the paellas that we are used to here by swapping out starchy bomba rice for fried fideua pasta, turning a potentially cloying dish into one that is utterly delightful. The fried pasta absorbs the squid ink sauce more thoroughly, but where it is unsoaked, it remains crispy. Along with the generous portions of cuttlefish to top it off, there is a pleasant surprise awaiting you in every bite.
As for those who may be craving something more substantial, look no further than the Tapas+ menu, which offers various grilled meats served with complimentary sides. Definitely try the delicious Pluma de Cerdo ($15), an Ibérico pork shoulder dish char-grilled to juicy perfection, as well as the Carrillera de Ternera Con Idiazabal ($12.90). Stewed beef cheeks so tender, that when brilliantly combined with the cheese cream, simply melds into an exquisitely rich harmony of flavours.
For the quality of the dishes offered at the Tapas Club, one may find it quite incredible that one has to pay only so little. But this is precisely the ethos that lies at the core of the restaurant – to bring a cuisine truly representative of the vibrancy of Spain to all. With good and affordable food, as well as its relaxed and open environment, Tapas Club could very well be your new favourite hangout spot.
Tapas Club opens daily from 12pm–11pm from Sundays to Thursdays, and 12pm–12am on Fridays and Saturdays, at 181 Orchard Rd, #02-13–15 Orchard Central, Singapore 238896, p. +65 31637577.