I first met Omar Alibhoy back in 2018 at Westfield in Shepherds Bush where his first Tapas Revolution spread itself confidently across the heart of the shopping centre, its stools at the long bar treating casual shoppers to its signature dry-aged ham and other classic Iberian tapas. Omar told me that he’d brought his brand to Britain because while Spain may be a home from home to millions, who even knows how to make calamares? Not that that’s what most visitors to Tapas Revolution are interested in as they tuck into a small pate of Fritura Mista, but Omar is, and that’s what makes this Revolution different to most.
His book Spanish Made Simple is just that, and according to friends who love to cook Spanish food, it’s one of the best on the market. But whether or not you’re a home cook who loves to play with different cultures on the plate, it’s this that flavours the eating experience at Brighton’s North Street restaurant which opened earlier this summer.
Now, full disclosure here; I know just how much Omar cares about detail because my daughter was part of the opening team (and is now a supervisor), and spent two weeks learning exactly what a Spanish welcome should be, the story behind the food and how to mix a mean Margerita. That bonding with the largely Spanish crew created a family feel which anyone who knows anything about Spain will know is the real meat on the table.
And so to the food. Dining with the legendary Brighton food critic, Andrew Kay (below) was always going to be a treat, but I was wary about the torreznos con mojos, the slow cooked pork belly drizzled with a herb mojo verde and sweet spicy sauce and the chorizo a la sidra, a spicy Asturian sausage roasted with red onion and vintage cider reduction. Spanish food culture has had the pig at its centre for generations, yet as in Italy, the slow creep of the factory farm has already begun to erode its roots. Would Omar care enough about bringing his Spanish food culture to Britain to pay for high welfare, locally sourced pig? I didn’t dare ask.
It was delicious, a melt in the mouth, knife through butter dish which I left Andrew to finish, just in case, while I devoured the guisantes con jamon, a delightful plate of garden peas with mint, confit onion, slow roasted garlic and jamon. I might have left the jamon on the side… The garbanzos y espinacas, the vegan braised chickpeas with baby spinach, garlic and spices was a safer bet, and a tasty and moreish option to the usual runners and riders of patatas bravas and calamares A couple of glasses of white Rioja, a table on the terrace in the sunshine, and that was a Friday lunchtime I shall do again.
165 North Street, Brighton, BN1 1EA