Monday, October 27, 2008

3. Spain: El Castizo, Spanish Tapas

El Castizo
24 St Pancras Street,
Victoria Court,
Chichester, West Sussex
PO19 7LT
01243 788988

Sometimes a bit of a search makes the discovery even more rewarding. Such was the experience Badgerman and I had trying to find El Castizo, a Spanish tapas restaurant just off the eastern side of the Chichester ring road. The restaurant, while clearly marked by and illuminated pub-style sign on St Pancras Street, is cloistered in a compound of buildings and is not immediately obvious. Look for the menu in a lit box on the wall to the right as you enter Victoria Court. The above-ground entrance looks like conservatory or summerhouse. Once inside, you immediately go down a wide flight of stairs to the restaurant proper, charmingly sited in a former wine cellar that is roomy and bright and informally decorated with Spanish artefacts. Unfortunately, it does smell a little damp and musty.

We received a friendly greeting and received very attentive service throughout our stay. As we arrived just as they opened at 6:00 p.m., we were asked if we were going to the theatre so they could make sure our food would arrive promptly. It did and we left in plenty of time to walk to the Festival Theatre for the 7:30 performance.

Our waitress brought a complimentary basket of bread and some olives as she took our drinks orders. The menu, clearly set out, has over 40 tapas dishes grouped into meat, seafood and vegetable sections, all priced between £3.00 and £5.00, with English translations of the dishes’ Spanish names. We ordered Tortilla de Patata on Chorize, a traditional Spanish omelette with “ even more personality”. The light, tasty omelette, at the right of the food picture below, came in three slices topped with crispy fried chorizo (£3.00). These elements complemented each other well in texture and taste. We also had Almejas en Salsa Verdi: clams cooked in a cream, wine and parsley sauce that was a delight, Verdiras a la Parmilla on Sel Marina, a artistically arrangement of perfectly grilled asparagus, mushroom and other vegetables seasoned with sea salt. The Pimientos del Padron, a ‘new’ item on the menu, was assorted sizes of smallish green peppers that were fried in fine olive oil. They were perfectly cooked so the pepper flesh came away readily from the stalk. The menu’s warning that: “some are hot, some are not” was quite true- thought even the hottest was not too violent for most palettes. The Calamares (£4.00) were expertly cooked and made a good foil for the other higher spiced dishes. We also had a simple green salad. The undoudted highlight of the meal was the stunning Albondigas en Salsa de Tomate (£3.85), Spanish meatballs in a tomato and cream sauce. The meatballs were light, firm but crumbly and the velvety sauce stopped conversation and had Badgerman and I reaching for the bread to mop up every drop! All our dishes were traditional in format, but they were not heavy, rustic food but more sophisticated and modern in their construction, ingredients, presentations and taste.

We finished by sharing a delicious, honey-laced, baked custard called Natilla from the small dessert selection. We did not imbibe in the interesting wine list, realistically priced with bottles up to £17.00, but just had sparkling water.

Our bill with coffee and excluding tip was £32.90.

Although this was only the third Sussex Ethnic Eats review, El Castizo will go into the Top Pick section of the SEE blog, as it is, without a doubt, the best tapas Badgerman and I have ever tasted.


Ambience: 2
Service: 4
Food Presentation: 3
Food Quality: 4
Value for Money: 3

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