Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Rosita, Northcote Road
"You should write it up," my flatmate said, after I'd spent the whole evening moaning about how much better José would have been for the same price, "because it's a nice, normal restaurant that nice, normal people go to. Not everyone spends every waking hour scouring geeky food websites or travelling to Hendon to spend two hours queuing for a cheeseburger. Normal people eat at places like this."
There is always room for a middle ground, and of course not every Spanish restaurant has to be - or can be - as good as José. But is it my "job" (such as it is) to make excuses for somewhere I know is charging too much for food that might have been impressive ten years ago, or brutally point out a short list of alternatives in town where you'll have a better time? However much of a smug, spoiled, elitist twerp it makes me sound.
Anyway, if I was worried about coming across as a smug, spoiled, elitist twerp I would have given up on this food blog a long time ago, so here goes. Rosita is the sister restaurant to Lola Rojo, also on Northcote Road and where I'd had a very passable but - again - slightly overpriced and uninspiring meal a few years back and never really felt compelled to go back. The USP of Rosita is that is it is nothing so humdrum as a tapas bar - it is a "sherry bar", which as we all know is far more trendy these days and has the added benefit of not actually requiring you to do anything differently other than put the words "sherry bar" above the door.
Dressed crab was decent, and although padded out with egg and bread it was almost worth the £7.50. Didn't feel massively Spanish, though, just like the filling from a crab, egg and cress sandwich put in a shell. "Rositas" were more interesting, little bitesize rolls of toasted bread filled with, in this case, a well-seasoned tuna tartar and one with duck egg and sprouts; they were fun to eat, but still felt like wedding buffet canapés masquerading as tapas.
Grilled King Prawns did at least look authentically Spanish, but suffered from having been slightly undercooked and were a bit gloopy inside - this despite the legs on the poor things being so fiercely cremated they had mostly fallen off. I wonder if this is because of the use of a Josper grill, which may get a nice darkened crust on your medium-rare beef steak but is perhaps too difficult to control on tiny delicate bits of seafood.
The biggest knowing sigh of the evening was reserved for this plate of Iberico Jamon de Belotta, which bore about as much resemblance to the silky slivers of acorn-fed loveliness available at José as a packet of Frazzles. Tough and curly as dry wood shavings, they were an £11.50 waste of time. And "cod churros with green olives" were just bizarre - the chewy sticks of "churros" tasted of nothing more than batter, and the green olives came in the form of an inedibly salty foam that the churros were planted into. It didn't work. They were £6.50.
With a bottle of the cheapest Manzanilla, the bill came to around £73, so let's return to my original point. For a bill for two of that size in José, or Pizarro, or Tramontana, or Barrafina, or Fino, you would have left having eaten some of the best Spanish food outside of Madrid. The sherry would have been ice cold (Rosita's wasn't), the seafood of the highest quality and grilled to perfection, the Iberico ham expertly carved to translucently thin. If I didn't know any better, I may have not grumbled quite so much about how better I could have spent my money. But I'm afraid I do know better, and I'm not about to make excuses for a restaurant that while not a disaster, in 2013 is simply outshone. And if that makes me a snob, and I'm pretty sure it does, I'll live with that.