Friday night picks: Tapas Club @ Orchard Central

Despite the recent, and when I say 'recent', I'm referring to a good 10 culinary years in Singapore's culinary context, Spanish cuisine has seen a booming business amongst diners. Hence its not peculiar that I've never had the urge to venture into a new tapas joint in search of greener, more authentic pastures, since most of us would have settled into the constancy of our regular Spanish joint when the craving hits. Binomio on Craig road may be a homestead for some of you, hence this news might come across as pleasantries.

D+1, the largest Spanish company in Asia's F&B industry and regional franchise owners of popular frozen yogurt chain llaollao has decided to expand its portfolio, adding a casual tapas dining concept to its empire. And despite the mass-market appeal of the brand, the authenticity factor is not displaced in the new venture,  Tapas Club, located in Orchard Central. Executive Chef Jose Alonso (also Head chef of Binomio) keeps things on a tight leash and the dishes are relatable, most of them tugging at the heart strings in regards to flavours.

The space is kept casual, grills to imitate window looking out into significant landmarks around Spain, while ornate tile patterns line the walls and table tops. Undeniably, the mood is distinctly light-hearted, and one would imagine being serenaded by a hot-headed songstress straddling the side of a cobbled pavement in the heat of Spanish summer. With that in mind, of course there would be beer. Tapas Club imports their own Spanish beer, the Ambar Radler, a refreshing beer infused with lemon juice in perfect ratio to compliment the heavy throngs of flavour one would expect from tapas.

Unsurprisingly the meal begins with bread. Pan Con Aceite y Vinagre ($5) comprises of pieces of Homemade toasted bread accompanied by olive oil and spherified balsamic vinegar. Resistance is futile, the crumbly shards of bread, redolent with dairy sitting comfortably in the tummy. You might want to retain some of those crisp pillows to soak up the goodness of the Gambas al Ajillo ($12.90), prawns sautéed with garlic and parsley is a sight for sore eyes. Plump prawns curled up and sprinkled with fried garlic shards and parsley up the sexy quotation. We pray that your date is as receptive to garlic as you are mad about the dish. Another classic tapas dish is the Patatas Bravas ($9.90), deep fried potato cubes served with spicy brava and graced with silky drops of garlic mayonnaise. Be still my heart.

The Red Tuna Tartare in Tartar de Atun Con Ajo Blanco ($12.90) comes on a bed of chilled marcona almond soup, an irresistible mixture of creamy, nutty and a pinch of sour from the tomato chunks - this is as hearty and refreshing as starters come. For something a little substantial, try the Caballa Con Calabaza ($12.90), Spanish Mackerel perfectly grilled, crisp skin and all is paired with  sweet pumpkin puree, gently spiced. 

Tapas Club boasts a great selection of wines from small bodegas across Spain. All pried accessibly suitable for takeaway.
Grilled meat options are aplenty for the carnivores. The Pluma de Cerdo ($15) isn't anything that's amazing beyond measure. The Char-grilled iberico pork shoulder could have use a heavier sear for crustier edges, but that might compromise on the doneness of the perfect marbling on its cross section if not handled properly. Served with sea salt flakes, more aioli and escalivada; this platter is perfect for a quick pick me up at lunch time.

If you are nursing a glass of wine, the Carrillera de Turner Con Idiazabal ($12.90) is a swell option. Stewed beef cheeks in red wine sauce is mated in a sacrilegious pairing with Idiazabal cream cheese, a sheep's milk cheese with a farmhouse flavour that miraculously turned up the robustness and delicate richness of the tender beef. Highly recommended.

A must have at Tapas Club is the Fideua Negra ($25), pasta is first flash fried before cooked in a seafood stock boosted with the harmonious medley of sautéed sofritto. The end result, poured into a paella pan to build that slight crust before being topped by class, squid, imported green peas and dollops of allioli (Spanish garlic mayo which I'm deeply infatuated with). Delicious, if not contested by my favourite version from Don Quijote.

Make some room for desserts, their Churros Con Chocolate ($8) is calorific and undoubtedly worth the extra inch of love handles following this ordeal. Redolent with sugar (sans cinnamon) the sticks walk a tight rope of fluffy and chewy centre, all at the same time. Be kind to yourself when exploring the dark waters of chocolate sauce, gregarious servings of this is extremely therapeutic for the spirit. The same can't be said about the Creme Catalana Con Sorbete ($10), the superfluous finale to the meal. Dull, curdled custard - the result of a rushed baking process lies below a thin layer of excellent brûléed sugar. The only saving grace being the mandarin sorbet.

Tapas Club's casual attitude means that you can stop on your way to the cinema or the dreaded shopping expedition for a few tapas or feast late into the night. As compared to other Orchard road diners, it's a relatively cheap eat and makes for a great date option. Get conversations flowing with Spanish wines from small bodegas across the land; all priced affordable to pander to the starving wallets.

Tapas Club
181 Orchard Road #02-13 to 15
Orchard Central
t: +65 3163 7577

Operating hours:
Sun - Thurs: 12 - 3pm; 6pm - 11pm
Fri - Sat: 12 -3pm; 6- 12pm

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