After a week of college and general boredom, I was anxious to get out of the house on Friday evening and treat myself to a meal out with my best friend, and favourite lady, Megan. After much indecision, I decided to set the date for La Paloma, Dublin’s oldest Spanish restaurant, set in Asdill’s Row, Temple Bar.
Upon entering, I immediately noticed that Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca was being played, which was a bit unfitting. Actually, as the night went on, I came to the shocking realisation that his entire album was on repeat – Shake Your Bon-Bon being the highlight. A bit odd, I thought, but as I glanced around the room I forgot about that initial bit of kitsch and realised that this was actually a pretty nice find. The walls were a lemon colour, adorned with a collection of framed Spanish posters and odd images of matadors, flamenco dancers and seafood. It is just really fun to look around the place – it’s all a bit over the top, which I think is brilliant. The room is full of little touches; tacky blackboards, postcards from Spanish tourist areas, and wrought iron wheels with lights in them. What stands out when you first walk in is a low, whitewashed wall which separates the dining room in two – a cute feature I thought – trying to squeeze a Spanish Villa into Temple Bar is a pretty hard feat. I was seated in a blue corner snug, and as I waited for Megan to arrive, I read over the menu.
Being the poor student that I am, I had to order from the Early Bird menu (€13.95 for starter and Entrée), but as I read it I was surprised to see a wide range of Tapas on offer for a starter. As well as a range of garlic and tomato breads, there were mussels in vinegar, Crab in Almond milk, and quite a few Chorizo dishes to choose from. The waitress soon came back with a jug of water for me. Me, wanting to secure a place in the Early Bird time slot, I had to tell her that ‘My friend will be here in a minute’. Pretty shockingly, she answered with ‘Yeah… sure’. That was the exact response that she gave me, not in an aggressive way, but in a sad, empathetic way that made me feel like taking Megan as soon as she arrived, and shaking her in the waitresses face.
Anyway, after a brief chat and catch-up, we both ordered. For my starter, I chose an Orange and Chorizo Risotto, and Megan chose the Patatas Bravas. They were served within five minutes, which might have had something to do with the fact that there were only two other couples seated at that time. Anyway, I wasn’t complaining. The risotto was cooked perfectly- creamy with a slight bite. The chorizo was the first flavour I got – salty and lightly spiced. However, the orange left a refreshing, citric taste, which made the whole dish more enjoyable, just because I sometimes find that the creaminess can be overpowering and heavy.
Megan gave me a taste of her tapas too – potatoes in a rich, tomato sauce with a sweet aftertaste. All in all, we were both pleasantly surprised with our choices, and as we sipped on our “Spanish Screwdrivers” (a cocktail described as surprisingly alcoholic on the menu, and priced at €4.95, clearly for ladies in our situation) we gave out about a myriad of things, including an English woman sitting by us, who was allergic to seafood – choosing Spanish cuisine probably wasn’t the smartest idea she ever had. The Early Bird gives a choice of two Entrées; Chicken or Seafood Paella. However, for the richer restaurant-goer, La Paloma offers dishes like Seabass Fillet with Chorizo, Catalan fish stew and Crispy Chicken stuffed with Spinach, Pine-nuts and Manchego Cheese. But since this wasn’t an option, I chose the Seafood Paella, and am so glad that I did. Fresh Mussels and King Prawns adorned my plate, shells and all. The rice was full of vibrant flavours and served with a lemon wedge, it was just an amazing dish. The portion was the perfect size – any more and I would have been clutching my stomach as I finished it off. Megan chose the Chicken Paella, and we both ended with clean plates.
For dessert, we shared a Crème Catalana (€5.95), which is a Spanish version of the Crème Caramel. Also on offer were Chocolate Chip Leche Frita and Chocolate Mousse, among many others, displayed on a blackboard above the bar. Actually, as we read it, we couldn’t come to any conclusions about what Leche Frita actually was – roughly translating it as ‘fried milk’ in the little Spanish we know. Turns out that’s exactly what it is, so I’m happy we had the sweet, unfried caramel dish.
Eventually, we asked for our bill and put our coats on. I concluded that La Paloma was worth going to again. The atmosphere of the place, as well as the brilliant food, really impressed me. Even the bad aspects of the restaurant were so tacky that they were funny, and made me like it more; for instance the fact that although it is ‘Dublin’s Oldest Spanish Restaurant’, it is actually only 16 years old. Funnily enough – as we were leaving, I noticed that almost all of the tables were full, unlike when I first came in – suddenly I noticed the music being played was a soft, traditional Spanish piece as opposed to the Shake Your Bon-Bon of an hour earlier -two facts that were almost definitely related.