The Raptors are duking it out with the Warriors. But you would never know it in this buzzing joint, where the disco classic “Boogie Oogie Ooogie” is blasting and the TV is tuned, volume off, to a live stream of the Peru versus Costa Rica match.
It is wall–to–wall tapas and soccer all the time (even the washrooms are papered with soccer–star player cards) at this Mount Pleasant venture dreamed up by three Spain–obsessed industry vets (bartender Shaun Layton of L’Abattoir, Meat & Bread co–founder Frankie Harrington and chef Justin Witcher of the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort). Bright red, blue and yellow Spanish seltzer spritzers, jumbo tins of imported potato chips and some Miró–like abstract shapes reference the tastes and sensibilities of España, yet somehow there’s not a speck of Iberian blood between the owners. They’ve channelled the spirit of their favourite Madrid and Barcelona bodegas (that’s wineries in Spain): the vermouth and sherry on tap, the jamón, salted fish, pimentón– and potato–centric small plates and the booty–shaking 1970s–era soundtrack. ¿Cómo? means “Come again?” The name of the restaurant roughly translates to “Holy cow, there are tapas here!”
The tinned seafood (conservas) get their own menu, they’re that good. Our Ramón Peña sardines arrive, the top of the can peeled back to reveal glistening rows of tightly packed fish in olive oil, served Spanish–style on a paper–covered wooden board with a mound of Bonilla a la vista potato chips and a bottle of Salsa Espinaler hot sauce. “It’s only a four out of 10,” our Catalan server reassures the spice–shy.
As the Number 3 trolley bus rolls by on Main Street, the disco– and G&T–fuelled fun is in full swing. Sunset–hued Naranja gin and tonics (Tanqueray Rangpur, blood orange, guindilla pepper) from the G&T section of the drinks menu arrive to acclaim at the next table, while I sip a Kalimotxo, a fizzy and slightly funky blend of red wine, lemon and cola in a tall ceramic highball glass. Crispy–on–the–outside, creamy–on–the–inside croquettes come studded with bits of salt cod, while a morcilla–based slider on a squid–ink bun with red–pepper relish and Swiss cheese could only taste better washed down with a Bereziartua Basque cider, bottle hoisted into the air and poured from on high with the traditional flourish. When our neighbour convinces her reluctant partner to try the rice pudding (bad boarding–school memories), it’s an enthusiastic two thumbs up. And there are still boquerones and olives on the way.