Please note this venue is permanently closed and no longer trading
Tempting tasty tapas
We opened the oversized glass door bearing the name Ortiga, dotted with opening hours and licensing information, and found the ground floor of this prestigious Spanish restaurant was host to many patrons enjoying tapas and drinks. We were greeted by the maître d' welcoming us in his foreign accent - I couldn't pick whether it was Spanish or French and the guessing game continued with each obliging waiter who attended to me and my girlfriends throughout the night: "Ladeez, would you like a pre-dinner drink?"
A couple of spritzers and tequilas later we were well and truly settling into the Ortiga atmosphere - outside, bustling Brunswick street was but a memory.
[ADVERT]We followed the head waiter downstairs to "ring" seats around the frantic kitchen. It is the centrepiece of the restaurant, a marvellous show featuring the culinary skills of these accomplished chefs. Six chefs in total, cooking for all and transporting us to Spain.
The dishes are tapas, which are light snacks or appetizers usually eaten with drinks. We followed the advice of our waitress closely when it came to ordering the correct number of portions as we didn't want to over-do nor under-do it.
Dried pork crackling appeared in a couple of bowls for us to eat. Crunch, giggle, crunch, giggle.
Our tapas began with natural Sydney Rock orstras (oysters), tessellated neatly on a bed of black rock pebble. We discovered it was pebble because one of us made the mistake of trying some – crack, aaah, crack, aaah. One oyster left over what to do? I suggested a game of spin the Rock Oyster. Before anyone could reply a plate of croquetas arrived. Six units in total and all were consumed very quickly.
Next arrival was a dish of fried vegetables, similar to tempura, with a beautiful romasco sauce. This rich red looking sauce has hazelnuts, almonds, tomatoes, red peppers and red wine and was the perfect complement with these legumes.
We braved the octopus but, no matter how small the portion of octopus, those "suckers" are recognisable anywhere. This was juicy and sweet and was prepared "pulpo a la Gallega" style. The ingredients include onion, bay leaves, potatoes and hot paprika. I can't say I cook a lot of octopus at home but this dish is worth a try.
Then, it appeared, the master of all dishes - the lamb breast. We had been quite classy up until this point but almost immediately we began to drool. This dish was divine, tender, tasty and out of this world. The preparation includes slow cooking for 24 hours and marrying it with vanilla, spiced chick peas and truffled honey. All I can say is - if Mary had a little lamb why didn't she eat it?
Our waitress appeared carrying a crock pot, which was placed it in the middle of the table. This was our conejo (rabbit), con setas (mushrooms), and pancetta. It was like a hearty stew your grandmother would serve. Consequently more bread was requested to dig down and clean the crock pot. Did I say we were originally showing some class?
Ortiga has one of the most extensive wine lists I have ever seen. One huge wall houses a massive wine rack that I'm sure requires a sat nav to locate our choice. Within a few minutes the sommelier delivered our bottle, an Italian Pinot Grigio, cold and crisp.
Our experience at Ortiga was so enjoyable and the tastes were so delectable. I'd like to return to try the tapas I missed on this night and enjoy the sights of that exciting busy kitchen again. Oh, and order more lamb. Ole!