Ortiga is a Spanish tapas restaurant with a modern twist. On arrival my party and I were escorted through the upstairs tapas bar, which was full of people sipping cocktails and munching on enticing bar snacks, whilst whole legs of Jamón sat on display for all to see.
We were lead down the stairs to the basement dining room, were the tables were arranged around a very open kitchen. There were the usual white table-cloths but this did not spoil the informal, relaxed atmosphere. Diners were all enjoying themselves, laughing and drinking wine from oversized glasses, occasionally glancing across at the kitchen to watch their meals being prepared.
The menu offers a selection of tapas, ranging in price from $20 to $30. There is also a selection of three heartier dishes, suitable for two or more people which are priced from $75 to $135 each. We chose 8 tapas to share, with the Chefs dictating the order in which we received the dishes. Our waitress was friendly and helpful, taking the time to explain each dish and how it was prepared as she placed it before us.
The meal began with a complementary appetiser, which was basically a pork crackling – pork skin deep fried in oil and salted. This was perhaps the only disappointment of the night, it was too tough and with little flavour. The rest of the tapas were meticulously prepared, with great attention to presentation, seasoning and balance of flavours.
The dishes ranged from pure simplicity, such as Pulpo a la Gallega - Galician braised octopus with potato and pimentón, delicious despite the use of just three ingredients, to the complex, such as the Cochinillo - slow cooked suckling pig with spiced chickpea puree and lemon, whose meat fell apart when prodded with the tip of a fork.
Ortiga succeeds where many other tapas bars fail; it manages to produce memorable, meticulously prepared food and attentive service whilst maintaining an air of informality. This is how tapas was intended, to be shared and enjoyed in a celebratory mood with friends and family, accompanied by a bottle or two of gutsy Spanish red.