Not usually prone to soppiness, I associate tapas with falling in love. Seventeen years ago I fell for the other half (OH) in a wonderfully rustic tapas bar in Waterloo over a dish of patatas bravas.
Nearly two decades on we found ourselves in the swisher surroundings of one of Birmingham’s Spanish offerings, Amantia. The colourful Spanish vibe we expected was slightly lost in the smart, modern décor, but was tempered by the warm and welcoming Isaac who greeted and seated us. Pleasingly gin is one of Amantia’s specialities. I played it safe with a Hendrick’s which had four pretty pink rose buds floating in it. OH went Spanish with a Rives served with orange peel and juniper berries. Presented in balloon glasses they were an ideal sharpener. The restaurant recommended three tapas per person. In truth everything appealed. Isaac enthused about the Galician style pulpo (octopus) so that made the cut along with albondigas, chorizo, croquetas, berenjenas (aubergine) chips and gambas. OH isn’t a fan of octopus. His actual words were: “Cephalopods aren’t supposed to be eaten.” He did relent a little though. Laced with smokey paprika and olive oil the octopus was succulent and tender. The portion was hefty mind you – more a main course than one of six tapas.
The man-size albondigas were juicy and moreish with a flavour packed gravy while salted cod croquettes had a crisp outer that revealed a rich, salty middle. A little salad served with the croquettes was scrumptious with a particularly good zingy dressing. We’d have liked more of this and less octopus on balance. The three stand-out dishes were the garlicky gambas hot with red chilli, crunchy aubergine chips with honey and chorizo in a rich, heady red wine sauce. We shared a delicious sticky almond cake with ice cream for pud with a perfect coffee. We weren’t in a hurry, but noticed a cracking lunch menu for the time poor. Two tapas with a glass of wine or beer for £9.95 is a brilliant deal for what feels like genuinely authentic Spanish nosh and good service.