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Tuesday 17 July 2012

A Friday Evening at La Tomatina

It had been raining all week in Bristol, almost continuously, and Friday evening was no exception. I left work and dodged the many puddles to go meet Elly for tapas at newly opened La Tomatina, at the bottom of Park Street. I had booked a table for 5 as I was expecting our Australian friends, who had come down for a weekend visit from London, and Rich was going to bring them down later in the evening.

Damp and with weather blues, I waited for Elly at a table near the patio doors, watching everyone trying to dodge the never ending downpour. Once Elly arrived we decided to order a couple of dishes to go with our drinks as we chatted and waited for the rest of the group to arrive.
La Tomatina Bristol
Croquettes, Calamari and Patatas Bravas
Chicken and Blue Cheese Croquettes

We ordered cod croquettes, patatas bravas, calamari and chicken and blue cheese croquettes. By far the chicken and blue cheese croquettes were the best thing about the whole evening, food wise. They were crunchy on the outside and wonderfully creamy on the inside. The cod croquettes were alright but no way near as nice as the chicken ones. It would be nice to have some traditional ham croquettes on the menu either instead of or as well as the cod ones. The patatas were pronounced tasty if not quite as spicy as we would have liked, but I have tasted so many different patatas over the years there is no hard and fast rule as to how they should come out.  I found my calamari portion very plentiful for the money but the calamari itself was a little rubbery and lacking in flavour.

Once everyone else arrived we ordered more beer, of which there is a fairly good selection of Spanish lagers  some of which I'd not seen in other Bristol bars before. We then ordered a couple more tapas each, mostly meat based and got stuck into the drinking. On the whole we agreed we liked the atmosphere of La Tomatina it was cosy, relaxed and had the reassuringly familiar sound of Gypsy Kings on in the background. Elly who has lived in a couple of Spanish cities agreed that tapas bars were more enjoyable when they threw themselves into the Spanish feel and culture as well as the food, I tend to agree.

Cured Meats Board
Chorizo with Butter Beans and Shallots 

Patatas with Tomato and Alioli
The patatas again were tasty and the potatoes nice and crispy rather than being soggy, it's nice to have the option of alioli on the menu as well. The cured meats board was good too but as long as you are buying high quality produce you can't really go wrong here. So far so good.
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Braised Pork Ribs in Tomato and Herb Sauce
Our main gripe with La Tomatina came with the seasoning, particularly with the meat dishes above and the calamari. As Kathryn remarked, the meatballs were of a good texture but they just seemed to be really bland the same goes for the ribs. It could have possibly have been an off day because it is obvious from some of the dishes the food can be very tasty. I was just very aware of a lack of salt or spice in the meat, Spanish flavours are bold and full on and with some tweaking they will have it right with the rest of the dishes. 

Bristol has a lot of tapas venues around at the moment and if it wants in on the competition fixing these little problems will be simple enough and I look forward to sampling those croquettes again as they were the jewel in their tapas crown.  La Tomatina is a good addition to the bottom of Park Street, if any sun actually comes our way this Summer it will be a nice way to while a few lazy hours in the afternoon. It is good value for money, some other tapas venues have very random portion control which can lead to unexpected hunger pangs, none of that here thank goodness. To check out their menus and upcoming events go to their website.


  1. Nice review. Haven't tried this place yet so looking forward to it!

    How would you say it compared to El Peurto? (Which is probably my favourite tapas place in Bristol)

  2. Thanks Oli

    I find El Puerto a bit pricey but agree the food is good. My favourite tapas place I think is El Rincon or The Old Bookshop, although not authentic the food is v nice. Bravas is mean't to be good. La Tomatina needs a bit of work on flavours with some dishes, but I don't know of another place in Bristol, other than El Rincon sometimes, that you can get croquettes.

  3. Looks delicious.
    I want to try these badly :(
    la Tomatina