I’m quite ashamed to admit that I only tried Café Andaluz fairly recently. Sure, it was always one of those places that came up in conversation and was heartily recommended by everyone I spoke to, but the exterior always looked quite formal when I passed by and eventually I would always be enticed by somewhere else nearby.
It wasn’t until recently when I went on a spontaneous trip with one of my colleagues that I had the chance to smash my preconceptions, and discover that this is in fact a really charming place to enjoy some authentic Spanish tapas.
The first thing that struck me when I first walked in is how freaking massive the place is. The small frontage is quite deceiving, as you initially walk into a small bar area, but it’s not until you make your way to the back that you realise this dining area goes on and on… and there’s even more seating in a mezzanine floor above! Despite having so many tables, the place was pretty much full and we were lucky to get a table ourselves without booking ahead.
We ordered from their early evening set menu, which offered six tapas dishes between two people. It was the perfect amount for us and the menu had a great variety on it, so we had no trouble finding dishes we fancied.
As you may already know, whenever I go to a Spanish place I ALWAYS order the patatas bravas, as it is my yardstick for determining if a place is good or not. The potatoes in this dish were chunkier than in most other places I had tried, but that wasn’t a bad thing.
The thick chunky tomato sauce and big dollop of sour cream that came with it certainly hit the spot, so after I had tried my first sample of these, I knew that we were onto a sure thing with the rest of the meal.
We also ordered the bomba picante, which was described on the menu as “Moroccan spiced minced lamb in a pocket of mashed potato, breadcrumbed and fried and served with chilli yoghurt”. It certainly sounded enticing, and I am a huge fan of Moroccan food, so we thought we’d give it a try.
It was really intriguing. It reminded me a little of shepherd’s pie, but with a North African twist. While it was really delicious, I must admit it was a bit awkward to split between us!
Being a huge fan of white fish, we also chose the pescado adobado, pieces of cod lightly dusted with a lemon, cumin and paprika dressing and served with a garlic mayo. They were really tasty, and with a lovely crispy coating and the fish so crumbly it easily fell apart in my hand!
We also ordered croquetas de jamon y queso, chorizo y butifarra negra and esparragos a la parrilla. Out of these dishes my favourite was the chorizo and black pudding (top right). It was a great combination of both local black pudding and Spanish chorizo, and the chunky, slightly sweet tomato sauce brought the two together really well.
I also really enjoyed the asparagus, a slightly lighter dish that was topped with manchego cheese. I could have quite easily wolfed down another full dish of it, it was so moreish. I wasn’t quite as keen on the ham and cheese croquettes, but my colleague really enjoyed them and I can imagine they would go down well with folk who have a taste for that kind of thing.
Despite my self-inflicted ignorance, Café Andaluz is an institution in Edinburgh for Spanish tapas and now that I have been there myself, it’s easy to see why. There is a great selection of dishes on offer, a great atmosphere and the food is absolutely top-notch. Now I’ve been there once, I’ll definitely be back again!
You can find Café Andaluz at 77d George Street, EH2 3EE. It’s towards the West End of George Street, so head up there from Princes Street via Castle Street or Frederick Street.