Applied Linguistics graduate and freelance writer. Visit my twitter: @heyclairemarie
Published July 9th 2012
Ah Soho. There is nothing quite like it in the world, with its narrow streets and vibrant array of bars and restaurants. Perched on the corner of Old Compton Street is Spanish restaurant Café Espana. At a contrast to the slinky tapas bars you will find around Soho, Café Espana is a throwback. From the outside, the restaurant doesn't look like a very exciting place to visit, but before you pass it by, try giving it a chance.
I have had the opportunity to visit this restaurant recently. Upon arrival, the smiling Spanish waiter took us to the seating area upstairs. One of the first things we noticed was that the tables are very near together. They are so close, they provide you with the opportunity to befriend the other people in the restaurant; after all you are practically sitting in their laps. To sit in certain seats, you almost have to shimmy into them. The restaurant is packed and noisy, especially on Saturday nights. However, it is also very cosy and provides an intimate place to enjoy a meal.
The food is moderately priced but this doesn't mean it is below standard in quality. I had a simple meal of Veal Escalopes and vegetables and found it enjoyable. According to "The Joy of Cooking", tapas originated as a piece of bread used to cover your wine glass in order to stop the flies getting in. Over time, it has evolved into snacks eaten with a drink. We sampled the tapas that Café Espana had to offer and it was delicious. None of our party tried the paella, but I have been informed that it is very good. Other dishes on the menu include pasta, fish and omelettes.
Sitting in the restaurant, we had to remind ourselves we were still in London. Café Espana has an authentic Spanish feel. In fact, if you were not aware that you were in Soho, you could almost believe you were in a popular restaurant in Spain in the 1990s. However, if you sit by the window, you can observe the bustling Soho life outside, which reminds you exactly where you are.
Café Espana is the kind of restaurant that could become a favourite for a lot of its visitors; in fact I have been back several times already. If you are looking for a small, cheap place to eat in Soho, you could do a lot worse than Café Espana. Try it for yourself and see.