A Fan of La Mancha

Peter Morrell visits this friendly family Spanish restaurant in Putney.

If there was any confirmation needed that La Mancha is a fun place to spend the evening then the guest who gave a short rendition of Happy Birthday on a trumpet to one of his companions must have been it. The impromptu performance elicited an enthusiastic round of applause from the other diners in the restaurant and was representative of the atmosphere with couples and larger groups relaxing, enjoying the food and having a good time.

The restaurant is a short stroll from Putney Bridge tube station so is accessible for both locals and those living further away. The dining space is comfortable with a large tapas bar and tables at the front, rather reminiscent of a Madrid bar, a large room at the back and a separate upstairs area with its own bar which can be privately hired for up to 70 people. The walls are decorated with Picasso and Dali prints and hand painted plates.

The menu is extensive with more than 50 tapas dishes and a good range of main courses. The biggest problem is choosing, with temptations like Galician octopus, Serrano ham, prawns with garlic sauce and one of my favourites, black pudding.  After a lot of deliberation I chose the Fritura De Pescado, a mix of fried calamari, whitebait, prawns, salmon, cod and red mullet with tartare sauce, my wife chose Pinchetos de Cordero Oriental, diced fillet of lamb marinated in herbs and spices and served on a skewer.

Both dishes were well presented, my wife’s lamb had some punchy flavours while my fish was excellent, with a very fresh tastes, the generous portions could easily have served two.

The main courses were just as difficult to pick, would it be the roast cod, the rib-eye steak or Zarzuela, the seafood casserole. We eventually went for the paella and it was a great choice. There were two variations, the Marinera with fish, shellfish and vegetables, and the Valenciana which also included chicken and pork.

We chose the latter and were treated to a veritable feast.  The paella pan was literally fully loaded with mussels, prawns, fish, meat and vegetables. This was the real deal and probably better than a paella in Spain. It was a rich and satisfying dish and had a wide range of flavours and textures.

The extensive wine and drinks list offered a range of sherries from the highly respected producer Lustau, there was an attractive looking and increasingly fashionable Albarino white from Galicia and of course a wide range of Riojas and Cavas. Some good new world reds and whites also made an appearance, prices start from under £15.

My tipple for the evening was a glass of the house Rioja, a very drinkable, smooth red with some good red stone fruit and spicy notes.

Dessert was almost beyond us given the size of the portions but we looked longingly at the Tarta de Santiago, the traditional Santiago de Compostela almond cake with Amaretto and caramel sauce. The perfect finish was the Sorbete de Lemon, a real lemon with its flesh removed and filled with lemon sorbet, it cleansed and freshened the palate.

As with all Spanish meals there was a selection of dessert wines and liqueurs to finish including the intense and luscious Pedro Ximenez sherry and some good brandies. However we resisted them all but my insomniac wife was grateful for the decaf cappuccino.

La Mancha is good place to spend an evening, the atmosphere is upbeat, the staff are friendly, the food is good and plentiful and the prices are reasonable.  Expect to pay around £35.00 per head including drinks and service.

¡Buen provecho – Enjoy your meal

La Mancha
32 Putney High Street,
London, SW15 1SQ‎
Tel: 020 8780 1022‎
Email: tapas@lamancha.co.uk


Review date 3rd April 2011