No matter where I am eating, if tapas is an option on the menu, I will be opting for it.
The concept itself is, to me, an example of culinary genius.
Why choose one large dish when you could have lots of little tasty ones? It removes the most difficult part of any meal – which is undeniably choosing what to order.
Though I have had a wide range of tapas from other cuisines, no one quite does it as good as the Spanish.
Looking to transport ourselves from a cold January evening back to our sunny Barcelona trip last summer, my boyfriend and I recently headed to La Tortilla Asesina in Inverness.
La Tortilla is one of the oldest tapas bars in Scotland, opening back in 2003.
The restaurant is located up Castle Street behind – you guessed it – Inverness Castle, and is a mere few minutes’ walk from the high street.
Once inside, the restaurant somehow manages to have a cosy, homey atmosphere while still making you feel like it could be tucked away on the Costa del Sol.
Colourful tiles line the walls along with exposed shelving showcasing wines and an array of traditional Spanish treats.
The restaurant was short staffed on the night we visited with only one person working, but service was speedy and with a smile regardless. We had no problems at all.
One thing to note is that it did take me a few calls before I got through to someone to book a table, and there isn’t an online booking system. Our visit was around new year so that could be why the line wasn’t manned.
If we were going to properly get myself in the holiday mindset, as was the goal, there was no other way to start the meal than with a sangria.
Maybe controversially, we went for a sangria blanca, a white version of the classic. It was light, fresh and peachy, the perfect thing to start and see us through the meal.
La Tortilla’s menu boasts a wide variety of tapas dishes without being overwhelming, each accompanied by a simple explanation. It is split into hot and cold plates, all of which were served to us at the same time.
Aidan’s eyes always go straight for the olives on any menu and this was no exception (£4.45). They were vivid green and plump, he said they were good but I had to take his word for it as I cannot get myself to like olives, no matter how many times I try.
I got a better deal in my eyes, with a whole portion of gambas pil-pil to myself as Aidan isn’t a fan of prawns (£6.95). The dish brought theatre as it arrived at the table, five juicy prawns sizzling in roasting hot, garlicy oil. I enjoyed every one of them, the balance of citrus and garlic sublime.
The second cold plate we went for was pan con tomate, which is toasted bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil (£3.75). This really did evoke summer memories for me, the tomato was incredibly fresh and acted almost like a palate-cleanser for some of the more punchy flavours. Some of the pieces were a little dark around the edges for my liking but I understand that’s easily done and it didn’t take away from the dish as a whole.
Pollo al ajillo was up next – described as slow baked chicken in a bread thickened garlic sauce (£6.45). I loved this, the chicken itself was incredibly tender. I could have finished off the sauce with my spoon if I hadn’t been so determined to leave space for everything else.
Probably my favourite tapas dish is patatas bravas, no matter how basic that is (£5). I am a potato lover through and through, and the combination of fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and garlic mayonnaise is divine. I do think they were a little short on the sauce, but I like it drenched.
While this was not the best version of the dish have ever had, the potatoes were perfectly fried and not heavy or dripping in oil.
I realise there was a strong garlic focus in this meal, but we had no regrets.
Calamares fritos is one of Aidan’s more recent favourite dishes so we of course ordered a plate. I originally thought the four rings we were served might not be enough to satisfy, but they were really chunky and definitely all we needed. No chewiness was endured despite the thickness, and we both talked about how good this dish was after we left the restaurant.
Croquetas can be done so wrong, but luckily, La Tortilla did them so right. Their version is a gorgeously crispy shell filled with a creamy bechamel and salty Serrano ham. Our only negative comment was that there were only three on the plate and we probably could have devoured a whole platter.
Bursting but not quite enough that we couldn’t share a dessert, we ordered a crema catalana to finish off the meal. It was light and smooth but heavy on the vanilla, just as it should be.
La Tortilla also serves up a wide range of paellas which looked lovely and which I am sure we will dive into on our next visit.
La Tortilla is exactly the kind of place I want to take friends and family when they come to visit – in fact I have it booked for this exact reason later this year.
The food is affordable but delicious, and obviously made fresh and with love.
It does exactly what I love tapas to do – encourage conversation, call for sharing and provide the opportunity to dig into a whole host of different dishes.
Address: La Tortilla, 99 Castle Street, Inverness IV23EA
T: 01463 709809
Price: £65.05 for seven tapas dishes, one dessert, one alcoholic drink and one soft drink. A service charge wasn’t added to the bill.
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 4/5
- Surroundings: 4/5