Restaurant review: El Tardeo

If the idea of ordering pre-assembled cold finger food off a glass counter sounds good to you, then make your way down to El Tardeo

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We like Binomio, the three-year-old Spanish restaurant where we sometimes go for tasty paella and tapas. So it stands to reason that we’d absolutely adore its slightly cheaper spin-off sibling eatery El Tardeo, which opened three weeks ago next door, right? Or so we thought. But more on that later.

While Binomio is a fine-diner with a small tapas bar headed by Santi alum Jose Alonso, El Tardeo is a spacious casual outfit specialising in pintxos and cocktails. Brief culinary lesson: pintxos (say ‘peen-chos’) is almost like tapas, but with subtle differences. Broadly speaking, it’s what people from the autonomous Basque Country in Spain — particularly San Sebastian (which has a super high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants) — call humble finger snacks often served on slices of bread. Pintxos means “spike” in Basque, and it refers to the toothpick piercing the bits together.

THE LOOK: First, the good stuff — the vibe here is great. It’s bustling with Spanish expats and locals when we walk in one Friday evening. There are paintings with riotous colours, well spaced-out tables and an al fresco area where we are treated to the unfortunate sight of an SPG making out with a chubby middle-aged dude. Thank heavens we’re seated at the bar instead. Half of the counter is covered by an attractive glass shelf housing various cold pintxos, like a more modestly stocked version of the ones we saw while holidaying in San Sebastian. However, we are ushered to the quieter end where the bartenders fix drinks. But that’s not a bad thing — the boyish manager who serves us is friendly and accommodating. He dramatically dumps our half-filled flute of cava (poured from a near-empty bottle) down the sink and complies when we jokingly say: “Why not just fill our glass with the freshly-opened bottle instead?” We’re shocked but impressed.

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