Tapeo Café & Tapas, Beckenham – Review

Peter Morrell reports on a very authentic and buzzy Spanish restaurant in one of south London’s most popular areas

We wanted to get together with some very good friends who we hadn’t seen for about six weeks and a Saturday slot suddenly emerged. Mails went back and forth about going into London but at the last minute we decided to spend more time catching up and less time travelling by staying local in our home town, Beckenham.

The new kid on the High Street is Tapeo, an informal Spanish Tapas bar and restaurant. Tapas is always a very social experience, the ordering and the sharing is an easy to and fro, and if the party consists of non-fussy eaters the process is simple and fun.

The restaurant itself is quite long and narrow and the exposed brick and wooden floor and scrubbed table tops give it a warm, cosy feel. When we arrived at 7:30 it was already busy, so booking is recommended.

With two glasses of Bodega Vibraccion cava and two Estrella beers to hand we took a look at the menu. Tapa is very in tune with the way we live and eat, the days of Service à la Russe, where three courses are brought to the table sequentially, is regarded as old fashioned. It was introduced by the Russian Ambassador to France in the 19th century, before that everything was served together, so separate courses isn’t a centuries old tradition.

We nibbled on Pan con Tomate, chargrilled bread served with fresh tomato and olive oil while we made our choices from the extensive tapas menu. There was a good selection of charcuterie and cheese, and sections for meat, seafood and vegetarian tapas.

Our choices were Patatas Bravas – roughly cut fried potatoes served with spicy tomato and aioli sauce, Pork Belly – oven roasted, it had been marinated in garlic, black pepper, herbs and served with chestnut cream and blanched vegetables. Other dishes we ordered were Gambas al Ajillo, – pan cooked prawns with garlic and red chillies in olive oil and Huevos Rotos – potato with onion and peppers topped off with a runny egg.

All the tapas were delicious, notable was the runny egg dish, real comfort food, the spicy prawns were packed with flavour and the pork had an incredibly tender, melt in the mouth quality.

The wines are predominantly from Spain and the Spanish speaking world. We chose two, a red and a white as companions to the food. The white was from the Central Valley in Chile, a Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from Vina San Esteban. citrus and floral aromas in the bouquet developed into bright herby acidity on the palate and it left a fresh, uplifting finish. The red was a 2014 Rioja, this was unoaked and had bags of cherry flavours on the nose, in the mouth the soft tannins gave it a smooth texture and the finish was fruity and persistent.

We finished with the cheese platter which included a blue cheese and of course, Manchego. Our drink pairing for this course is the world’s most underrated, sherry. Two of us had Amontillado and two Cream, both were multi-layered and had pleasing complexity.

This had been a good choice of venue, it was close to home, the food was authentic, the service was charming and it gave us time to catch up with friends in a pleasant atmosphere.

Tapeo Café & Tapas
142 Beckenham High Street