Lunch at Brindisa, Richmond upon Thames

We have a joke in UK that you wait ages for a bus and then three come along all at the same time. I’ve been playing this out with tapas bars recently. For years I meant to go to one of Jose Pizarro’s restaurants/tapas bars, finally made it to the RA one (click here) in March and then was back there again last week after visiting the Summer Exhibition with my friend Kate. Similarly, I’ve been meaning for years to go to a Brindisa tapas bar/restaurant. I’ve passed their first branch at London Bridge/Borough Market many times but never actually made it inside. Finally I got to eat at their South Kensington branch in June (click here) … then I was back at Brindisa, but this time in local Richmond, today. My friend Christine, who was kindly treating me, suggested it. I felt shocked I hadn’t noticed its arrival in Richmond – it turns out almost a year ago. Its location on Richmond’s lovely riverside has seen many restaurants come and go. I couldn’t have failed to see the bright red awning covering their terrace whenever I’ve walked over Richmond Bridge … but I hadn’t taken in what was actually there. If I’d known it was Brindisa I would have gone long ago!

Anyway, I was there today. And remarkably, given that the heatwave in UK has given way to heavy rain and thunderstorms – which had been predicted for today but fortunately the weather waited until after lunch to open the heavens and almost drown us – my friend and I were able to sit outside on the terrace. That bright red awning protected us from the sun, and we could enjoy what must been one of the best lunch-spot views in London while we ate some fabulous food.

Now I’ve never had a problem eating out on my own (as regular readers will know), but it’s so much nicer to be with a friend and especially when it comes to tapas. Tapas are to be shared and it’s nice to order a few things and get the chance to sample more than just a plate or two.

The order started with wine though. I rarely drink at lunchtime but when my friend suggested it, how could I resist? Sun, the Thames just to my right, a special lunchtime treat. Well, I didn’t really need much persuading! We both had a small glass of a Garnacha Blancha (£7.50), which was very delicious.

Then came the choice of tapas. After a bit of a discussion about what each liked, we settled on four dishes. A really nice thing was that although we made no request about how the dishes came, some thought seemed to have been given to it on Brindisa’s part. So the first two dishes came – which might in any other menu be considered ‘starters’ – first and it wasn’t until we’d eaten those, that the other two – more of a ‘main’ and ‘side’ – were brought. I really appreciated this. When ‘small plates’ became the fashion a few years ago, some restaurants seemed to make a big thing of ‘bringing the dishes as they were ready’ without the order necessarily being what one would ideally choose. I sought to regulate it sometimes by just ordering dishes a few at a time. But here at Brindisa, the thought was done for me!

Our first dish was Gamas al Ajillo – king prawns, chilli, garlic, olive oil, sourdough (£11). Big juicy prawns cooked with lots of chilli and garlic. They were fabulous.

Next was Monte Enebro – Raphael Baez’s award-winning fried goat’s cheese, orange blossom honey, beetroot crisps (£9). It looked exciting and it tasted wonderful. Rich, creamy, melting cheese, sweetened with honey and slivers of crispy beetroot on the side.

No one hurried us, the sun continued to shine, albeit grey clouds hovered on the sidelines. Once the first two dishes were cleared away, our next two came. The main dish was Arroz Meloso – ‘creamy’ rice, peas, summer wild mushrooms, shaved black summer truffle (£18.50). This was a generous serving and would make a great ‘main’ on its own for one person. But more than that, it was gorgeous. I always think of arroz as a wetter version of risotto and also of paella, of course, and I like them a lot. This one was indeed creamy, the rice perfectly cooked, and the mushrooms and truffles giving it a glorious luxurious taste. This was excellent. Really, I’ll never be able to walk across Richmond Bridge again without being tempted to pop into Brindisa just for this dish!

Our final choice, a ‘side’, was Broccoli a la Catalana – tenderstem broccoli, golden raisins, pine nuts, chilli oil (£6.50). This kind of broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables and I cook it a lot. This was a brilliant way of cooking it and encourages me to be a little more adventurous at home next time I buy some.

It was a lovely lunch: wonderful location, fabulous food, good service and of course great company. We got going homewards as the sky grew greyer and a wind got up. We walked together along the towpath a bit until we needed to part. I got home just as the heavens opened and so much rain fell onto the dry ground that big puddles started to form. But what perfect timing to end a perfect lunchtime.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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