Bombs (meat and potato fried balls), bravas (spicy wedges) and anchovies… Tapas tend to improve good weather, but it is only in a number of establishments, like Lola Tapes in Tarragona, where the short-lived art of platillos (little dishes) is performed: traditional cuisine portions that engage with quality and the customer’s satisfaction. It was three years ago that David Amorós and Ivone Romera turned on the stoves for the very first time, and already their restaurant located at Plaça de la Font has become one of the most recommended on the net. Besides the usual crisps and olives, known in Tarragona for being the basic ingredients for a vermut, Lola Tapas make customers start salivating with proper treasures such as grilled octopus with romesco or tanned blackmouth catshark, delicious little communal meals David has decided to bring back from his grandma’s cookbook to turn them into true delicacies for the 21th century.
“We wanted to create something that made a difference, which was full of character”. Tarragona has a sumptuous gastronomic personality, with a never-ending list of dishes, platillos and pots that combine the best of the Camp (campsite area) and the Mediterranean Sea. The wide range of local restaurants have embraced most of the romesco, zarzuela or all cremat recipes, all very traditional fish dishes, and have then tried to adapt them to their own profile. At the same time, however, social and economic transformations of the last couple of decades left the city almost orphan of any other type of establishments: pubs, taberns and bars, where popular classes would fill their stomachs with homemade food, away from any kind of superfluity.
Only a few, just like Bar Cortijo at Part Baixa, are still keeping the tradition for communal meals and little dishes alive, precisely what David and Ivone are trying to boost right in the middle of Tarragona’s tourist core. Together with sublime bites such as tomato with bonito belly, ecologic coca de vidre (a typical thin sweet cake), or handmade cheese from El Catllar (a few miles from Tarragona), Lola Tapes have become known also by their particular wine list, with a great number of natural and bio-dynamic wines, and also for being the perfect place for trying every imaginable combination of the cocktail of the moment, the gin and tonic. Eccentricity or not, but they’re always ideal to enhance dishes that will make you lick your fingers.
Pickled anchovies, ortigues de mar (snakelocks anemone), espardenya (royal cucumber)… All, or almost all references in and out the menu, were born with David’s learning process as a child, helping his grandmother, then increased and improved in Barcelona, London, Amsterdam, Milan and Lisbon, which eventually got him a distinction certificate working his mother-in-law, who was actually born in a fisherman family in Torredembarra. “Tarragona is the ideal city for the type of food we make. It has a great climate, and so one feels the need to sharing portions and little dishes with friends; but, unfortunately, there is no such tradition or offer in here, and therefore, most people have lost contact with tradition food. With Lola Tapes, we have realised that people are willing to going back to eating properly”, he states.
In a city where the choice for bars and restaurants has gone over the top, Lola Tapes have become distinguished not only because of a menu that is pushing traditional cuisine, variable depending on the market’s availability, but also thanks to top-notch, ecologic and local ingredients. The establishment exhibits the Km.0 badge (for local food) and it is part of the international Slow Food movement, a commitment already agreed by nearly 50 restaurants in Catalonia. “We believe customers are becoming more and more conscious about this, starting or trying to eat in a responsible way. In fact, if you think about it, good food is not expensive; not eating as we should really is”, says the cook.
With no more than twenty seats and a smaller kitchen than those in many houses, David and Ivone work as little ants in order to make everyone happy. Despite the slight hassle at rush hour, the atmosphere in Lola Tapes transmits good vibrations, always a wicked feeling. Conversations move from the counter to the tables, from the inside to the outside, from the kitchen to the terrace, and it is very often that the couple running the restaurant gently stick their noses in each one of them. “We are a tinny bit of a joker, and we love laughing. We have eventually created a climate of confidence with customers, who are aware of our sense of humour and play their part. With good humour, food suits you better”, finally says David.