“I’m afraid our next available table is for tonight at 10pm or Sunday evening at 9.45pm,” the amiable waitress advised over the phone when I rang on a Thursday looking a table that even- ing. “But our terrace is first come first serve so why not turn up and put your name on the waiting list for tonight?” We did as she suggested, arriving at 6.30pm to add our names to the list before heading to a nearby pub to await the call, being kindly warned that it might take some time to find us a seat. We perservered.
We kept an eye on the phone as we supped on a cocktail. “Have they rung yet?” we asked each other over and over. We decided to keep our hunger at bay with a small plate of olives and dips. They were frustratingly poor. The olives tasted like they came from a tin, all dehy- drated and rubbery, while the dips were nonde- script. It was a reminder that simple dishes are so often delivered shabbily and it made us even more anxious to get our call from Las Tapas del Lola. We had a feeling they were going to be able to deliver the type of inspiringly simple food that makes for the most memorable of meals.
And that wasn’t just us being clever. Las Tapas del Lola opened earlier this summer and has had thrilled reviews flowing in from all corners of the press and blogosphere; hence the booked out tables. Vanessa Murphy is the joint owner with her partner Anna Cadrera from Barcelona. They took the name of their tapas joint from the inspiring Lolas in each of their families and set out to bring authentic and delicious tapas to Dublin.
We finally got the call that we had been waiting for after an hour and a half wait. It turned out that a table inside had become available so we were seated in the centre of the buzzing room, with its green, white and black butcher’s tiles – perhaps a nod to the butchers that was on this site for years – and dark, wooden tables giving it a comfortably laidback feel. The place was packed.
Our competent and conciliatory waitress had us watered within minutes, happily plonk- ing a little glass of complimentary Tinto de Verano – Sangria without the fruit served with plenty of ice – in front of us. It was much appreciated and added to the friendly welcome we’d encountered since the first phone call. Even though we’d had to wait for a table, we still felt very much looked after.
And it only got better from there. Another little taster appeared on our table after we had ordered, this time a baby paella dish carrying two little mussels doused in a sweet tomato sauce. Soon our orders came streaming on to the table. Our waitress had been right in encouraging us to order the special of the even- ing, a startlingly tasty white chorizo (€7.50) served with garlic-fuelled chimichurri sauce and bread that boasted the perfect ratio of crunchy to fluffy.
The Gambas al ajillo (€7.50) were juicy prawns, dripping in that perfect garlic oil. The tortilla of the day (€4.50) was thick and topped with a dollop of aioli sauce. We got stuck into the wonderfully sweet Pa amb tomáquet (€3.75) or Catalan tomato toast, and used it as a dipping tool for our stand-out tapa of the even- ing, the Carillada de cerdo (€5.95). This was a deep, unctuous stew made of marinated pork cheek, served with the house sauce – a lemony, deeply-flavoured tomato sauce that made this potentially wintery stew ideal for summer. The paella of the day (€6.95) was sticky in all the right places, with generous amounts of fresh fish combined with saffron rice, but it was the least memorable of our plates which says more about our other dishes as opposed to this perfectly sound paella.
We shared a slice of the Tarta De Santiago (€5.50), a thin slice of almond cake that would have been too dry had we not taken the suggestion of ordering a shot of Moscatel for an additional €3.50 each. The sweet wine balanced perfectly with the marzipan cake, helping the dessert to come together.
It was quick, but not rushed, and we certainly savoured our meal. We were finished within an hour but felt welcome to hang on for another half hour to finish the rest of our luscious bottle of Arduke Tempranillo Graciano Mazuelo hybrid (€28). All in all, our bill came to a pleasing €76.65.
It’s no wonder the reviews have been rave and the seats difficult to get; the food is exhilaratingly good, the service well coordinated and the atmosphere lively yet condusive to an intimate chat. It was without a doubt worth the wait.
12 Wexford Street,
Words: Aoife McElwain