[AD – gifted: Our meal at Flamenco in Warwick was complimentary for the purposes of this blog]
If I were to tell you that someone had taken a 17th Century historic building, complete with rumours that it’s haunted, and refurbished it into a restaurant serving up traditional Spanish cuisine in the heart of Warwick, what would your reaction be?
Don’t worry, you’re allowed to admit to being sceptical. I was. I mean, I’m all for fusion food, cultural influences and the evolution of different cuisine. But mixing olde-worlde England with the stuff of holiday dreams? Tudor and tapas? Really?
You’ll find Flamenco on West Street in Warwick, opposite the entrance to Warwick Castle. Owner Alex Clayton, who is also behind Tasca Dali up the road, has orchestrated an impressive refurbishment of the Grade II-listed Tudor House Inn and transformed it into a rather sultry restaurant.
On one side you’ll find the bar, itself often home to live music, while the restaurant is on the other. Its transformation has seen the little nooks and crannies of this historic building lend themselves perfectly to a cosy setting for a relaxed meal. Yes, it’s a tad removed from a sunny Spanish setting, but why try to replicate somewhere else when you could create your own version?
The menu offers market tapas with all the classics from tortilla to croquetas and padron peppers. There are some more unusual offerings including ‘oriental calamari’ and a rather exciting sounding ‘Iberian Sword’. For mains you can go for a classic paella or ‘black rice’ and since I went they’ve added one of my faves – Chuleton. Otherwise known as aged Galician beef and something I have RAVED about before, this is a pretty special pre-orderable addition to the menu.
There are also fish dishes and more British-sounding mains including burgers, pizzas and a whole range of steaks, as well as ‘Lava Stone steak’ to share served on a 450-degree hot stone. It may seem to make no sense but when the charming Alex explains that ‘Flamenco’ is in and of itself a play on the idea of a ‘flame’, it starts to become a bit clearer.
While I love a good burger or a steak, I couldn’t bring myself to avoid some of the great-sounding Spanish dishes on the menu. So with a glass of Tempranillo in hand, we started with a mixture of croquettes and ‘Morcilla’ – traditional Spanish black pudding.
I may have been sceptical about the concept, but the first taste of a croquette took me right out of Warwick and straight to Spain. We opted for chicken and chorizo and while slightly smaller than some I’ve had before, they were perfectly formed, seasoned well and full of flavour.
While the croquetas were good, it was the Morcilla that won it for me. Thick slices of blood sausage adorned with piles of sweet red pepper. Down one side was a sweet, piquant chilli sauce, and a fruity mango sauce down the other, helping build the layers of sweet, spicy and savoury all on one plate.
Add a generous sprinkling of crispy onions and suddenly black pudding – so often an overlooked ingredient to my mind – becomes the star of the plate rather than a bit part.
Buoyed by starters full of flavour and everything we had hoped for from this unique little place, we eagerly awaited our seafood paella. Forget toxic-looking food-colouring stained packet rice with a bit of stuff thrown on top. This was about as far away from that as Warwick is from Spain.
Now, I’m no paella expert. There are people who know far more about it than me, especially given that are so many regional variations of this classic dish, but I reckon this was a pretty good one.
The rice was soft and tender yet still had a decent bite without a hint of tinned Ambrosia texture. I’ve got nothing against a tin of rice pudding, but I don’t want it for my main course and it certainly ain’t paella.
It was packed with an abundance of seafood, from small prawns and clams to mussels, razor clams and bigger langoustines. And most important, it all came together with a depth of flavour that, if you close your eyes, evokes hot Spanish days, sangria and the sea.
And so to dessert. Now, look below these words and you will see why I umm’d and aah’d about including the images of our chocolate ‘tequenos’. I don’t think anyone could argue that the appearance of these slightly phallic delights isn’t a bit unfortunate. However, it would be remiss of me not to tell you about them, given that they tasted pretty good.
Tequenos are a Venezuelan snack – basically a fried spear of dough with cheese stuffed in the middle. Swap cheese for chocolate and you have a cheeky (in more way that one) little dessert served up with a scoop of ice-cream. A fairly light, sweet full stop to a meal. Not necessarily something I’d go back for a second time but nice to try.
And there you have it. Flamenco is definitely somewhere a bit different. I almost feel like it shouldn’t work, yet it does, and that’s testament to the enthusiasm and passion of owner Alex and the very tasty food that his kitchen turns out.
The service, while appearing slightly chaotic at times when we visited, is attentive and friendly. The food is tasty and fresh and the setting is pretty unique for a Spanish restaurant. Oh, and on top of all that, they do Chuleton, so I will have to be heading back myself fairly soon.