I’ve been a huge fan of Brindisa, the Spanish food importer who was probably more responsible than anyone for putting chorizo on our culinary map. They have a great shop in Borough Market and a number of convivial tapas bars so it seemed good news when they announced they were opening Tramontana, a restaurant based on 'speciality dishes from the Spanish Mediterranean'.
Sadly a recent visit proved a let down not least for the toppy prices they’re charging.
Take the (admittedly tasty) Hamburguesa Blanco y Negro, a ‘mini-burger’ of white butifarra sausage and morcilla (black pudding). Now I’ve no idea what the wholesale price of butifarra is - maybe it’s a fortune - but £5 for what is basically a slider is ridiculous.
Rice is supposed to be the big draw but even single estate bomba from a “family owned farm” doesn’t justify £14 per person (minimum 2 people - i.e. £28) for a paella dish of bomba rice with iberico pork ribs and black pudding so heavily crusted at the bottom that at least a quarter of the volume had been lost. And I’m sure the mangetout perched on the top weren’t particularly Spanish. The rice dish with lobster our neighbours were having cost £20 a head. £40! You can order a generous portion of risotto at the River Café for £16-18.
Other dishes were more in the conventional tapas mould - jamon, croquetas, grilled lamb cutlets - all fine but the patatas tramontana, a baked potato stuffed with sobrasada (soft spicy sausage, cheese and duck egg) could have come from Spud-u-like way back in the 80s. And a lurid pink beetroot and hake ensaladilla tasted like mushed-up leftovers.
Somewhat discouraged the four of us shared just one pudding - a perfectly nice arroz con leche (rice pudding) with a sprinkling of cinnamon, a really good match with a glass of orangey moscatel Castadiva ‘Cosecha Miel’ from Alicante. The wine list in fact is great with a good choice of cavas, sherries and lesser known Spanish wines like the crisp, citrussy Verdil our waiter suggested.
But you wonder quite who they’re aiming at. The atmosphere is very different from the standard Brindisa, with a large bar and pumping soundtrack which doesn’t sit easily with the ambitious and slightly obscure regional food.
Maybe they’re trying to roll-out a more popular high-street brand, envisaging Tramontana as a Brindisa Ibiza or Brindisa Lite? If so they need to sort out their pricing as I wouldn't have thought that clientele wants to pay upwards of £50 a head for a casual night out.
For the time being if you want a good Spanish restaurant in London you can’t beat Jose Pizarro’s eponymous Pizarro in Bermondsey Street (maybe an unfortunate comparison as I've just been reminded he used to be executive chef of Brindisa!). And Donostia has had some good reviews. Or even one of Brindisa's own tapas bars but this one needs a rethink.
Tramontana is at 152 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AT. Tel: 020 7749 9961.
* We were offered the wine on a complimentary basis