Like so many of the world’s greatest food concepts, tapas is something that grew around the idea of community. Tapas, in Spanish, means small snacks or appetizers, to be shared by people over drinks. In Spain, it is a frequent practice for groups of friends to go from one tapas bar to the other at the end of the work week, and, as they drink, snack all evening on a series of small plates of olives, meatballs, salted cod, pickled vegetables and chorizos. The beauty of this concept lies in the very idea of sharing, of a group of people forking small bites from the same plate as they have a good time.
Which is why we were a little disconcerted to be confronted by a long slice of toasted baguette, topped with lamb stew at La Roca in Aerocity, which is being presented as Delhi’s first world tapas bar. Tapas, by its very nature, is supposed to be served as bite-sized, individual portions, but the Poposo Lamb Bruschetta Stew that lay on the lovely stoneware dish in front of us looked like it would have to be sawed through with a fork and knife, before we could get even one bite-sized portion out of it. The server, when asked to take it away and bring it back sliced into appropriately sized pieces, looked momentarily taken aback, but our request was complied with. Once the dish returned, divided into four neat segments, we were able to finally sample some of it and deliver our verdict. Yes, the lamb stew was very very good, the meat braised so well that it simply melted in the mouth.
This was more-or-less the tenor of the evening; puzzlement over how the concept of tapas applies when a dish is difficult to share. To be fair, though, the food is delicious. The menu eschews the usual classifications, instead listing dishes under themed categories such as ‘dough’, ‘saucy’, ‘crunch’, ‘umami’, ‘fire/smoke’, ‘fresh’ and ‘sweet. Our lamb stew was from the ‘saucy’ section and did justice to the theme, as did the other dishes. From ‘fresh’, we ate the bright and zesty Burnt Carrots with Goat Cheese, Parsley, Arugula and Crispy Garlic chips, the Truffle Mushroom Risotto from the ‘Saucy’ section was creamy and earthy, like a good mushroom risotto ought to be and the Madras Buttermilk Chicken Leg with Mustard Curry Dip had a delightfully crunchy crust and was easily the best dish of the evening.
This is, of course, tapas as high-concept fare (and the prices reflect that). The food on the menu goes beautifully with some of the best cocktails that we’ve had recently: Nectar, the bar at La Roca, is being pitched as Delhi’s first all-natural bar, with an emphasis on the use of cold pressed juices, infusions and herbs. Violet, made with gin and blue tea — part of a growing trend of blue tea infusions in cocktails — was exactly the refreshing drink we needed for a hot summer evening. One delightful surprise was the saffron-infused bourbon — a marriage of flavours that worked surprisingly well.
For these well-balanced, sophisticated drinks and for the exquisitely-plated, delicious food (never mind that not all of it is easily shareable), we are definitely going back.
Price for two (with alcohol): Rs 3000
Address: La Roca, Lower Ground Floor, Worldmark 1, Aerocity