You’d have thought we’d have long tired of tapas restaurants, given the pace at which they multiply in this city. Spanish fever has not yet weakened and I sense it never will, particularly when a restaurant as delicious as Zafran joins the scene.
Zafran is Aqua Group’s latest baby, hidden away down a little alley off Wyndham Street. In my opinion, whilst the food in other Aqua restaurants isn’t bad, it is usually secondary to the location or view. At Zafran, however, although the restaurant itself is very cool, the food is spectacular.
Upon entering through the ‘secret garden façade’, I was surprised to see just how big the space is. It’s like a cavernous basement, divided into three sections: the bar, the dining room and the late night lounge. The use of dark wood and bare bricks give it the look and feel of an underground hangout, yet a very, very cool one.
We were seated at the open kitchen/tapas bar, where we could watch the kitchen team, led by Spanish chef Marc Lores create their delicious masterpieces of ‘classic tapas’ and ‘Zafran tapas’.
To begin, after each being served an individual (mini) jug of sangria, we were offered an amuse bouche of watermelon sangria, a refreshing bite of compressed watermelon and wine that cleansed the palate and prepared it for all the exciting flavours that were to come.
The first of the dishes was the Galician Padrón peppers with sea salt. Usually, in a pile of 25 of these little peppers, you’ll find a few seriously hot ones. Whether Chef Marc had been through them and removed the hot ones, or we were just very (un)lucky I am unsure, but not one single pepper was remotely spicy. They did, however, have a lovely charred flavour and a beautiful texture. The sea salt complemented the ever so slightly bitter twang of the peppers.
Gambas al ajillo are a personal favourite at any tapas restaurant, and Zafran’s version was just what I was hoping for. The texture of the prawns was perfectly bouncy, served in the right amount of garlic-infused olive oil, with large, lightly fried slivers of garlic and chilli.
Chef Marc’s take on the classic pulpo a la Gallega are his octopus skewers with potato foam. Sprinkled in paprika, this had the same lovely, simple flavours as its classic counterpart, and was warm, comforting and utterly delicious. The octopus itself was cooked to perfection, without the slightest hint of chewiness.
Zafran prides itself on its homemade chorizo, and quite rightly so. Each bite had a lovely, crumbly texture, the right level of spice and a comfortingly (but not overly) salty flavour. Definitely one of the best dishes of the night.
The salt cod brandada with cauliflower cake and ikura was clearly one of the more creative ‘Zafran tapas’, and we could tell the chefs had had a lot of fun constructing it. To look at, it was beautiful; but to taste, it was even better. The textures, from the smooth cod brandada, to the crumbly cauliflower cake, crunchy toasted bread and popping fish roe worked joyously well together.
Our last (savoury) dish was the ‘Secreto Iberico,’ acorn-fed pork with chickpea puree and confit piquillo pepper. Chef Marc announced, “I am really in love with this dish!” We agree, apart from the fact that we felt it would have benefitted from just a little more of the confit pepper.
For dessert, whilst the huevo frito – a sweet replica of a fried egg, black pudding and chips, made with pumpkin ice cream, white chocolate foam, chocolate cake and pineapple with strawberry and sour cherry ‘ketchup’ – was fun and interesting, it was the ‘Chocolate dessert’ from the specials that really impressed us. This was an amazing explosion of bread, chocolate, olive oil, peanuts and sea salt that fused together to make a truly delicious dessert.
Finally, just in case we hadn’t had enough, we were served little pots of ‘Gin and Tonic Dessert’ – literally the beloved drink in perfect palate-cleansing-dessert form!
Prices at Zafran range from $68 to $270 per plate of tapas. Service is excellent, and we would particularly recommend sitting at the bar for front-row action. Although there may be tapas restaurants all over town, don’t, for a second, lump them all in the same category; sometimes one might come along and take you by surprise, just as Zafran did for me!
Basement, 43-43 Wyndham Street
Tel: +852 2116 8855