El Coto - turning on the style with top tapas
Posted: 11 Oct 2009
Espana por favor – pronto!
Anne Graham takes two pals on a flying visit to El Coto in Newcastle
As a devotee of the southern European way of life (and a one-time resident of France), my ideal world would feature endless long lunches and evening meals grazing at a table groaning with good food and wine with appropriate geography-specific music, relaxed conversation, laughter – well, you get the picture.
And nowadays you can get all that in the North East too. We may not have the sunshine but we’ve got every other element. And the conversation is usually funnier too.
What’s more we’ve got adaptable restaurants where you can while away the hours at leisure or nip in for a quick pre-theatre or post-pub bite.
Time restraints (thanks to a rescheduled football match) pointed to the latter option at El Coto in Newcastle, a Spanish restaurant which is long on atmosphere, has a comprehensive menu with many tapas options and can deliver sustenance at a speedier pace than is customary in the manana culture of Spain. It also has a branch in Durham.
I like El Coto. I have been several times to the Newcastle and Durham branches and it’s always been reliable, authentic and, somehow, soothing – maybe because the service is unhurried without being slow. Or maybe the relaxed Spanish vibe gets through to me each time.
The décor is low key and urban cool – dark wood, cream-coloured walls, not a flamenco doll or straw donkey in sight.
The menu advises choosing a couple of tapas per person and sharing. I’m all for sharing but six tapas amongst this particular trio would never do. We ordered ten, including a mega portion (at £12.50) of melt-in-the-mouth pata negra ham. This dish is comparatively expensive but, in my book, it’s tastier and has a more melting texture than Parma ham. And once you’ve tried it you won’t want to go back to the less luxurious version.
Our other choices were a plate of cold tapas (including Serrano ham, chorizo, asparagus, artichokes and olives), papas bravas (potatoes in fiery chilli sauce), calamares (squid), gambas al ajillo (prawns in garlic butter with chilli – two portions), sweet and spicy peppers stuffed with black pudding, ropa vieja (impossible not to make a joke about old rope but it’s actually a very tasty beef stew with chickpeas), croqetas with cheese and ham and tortilla paisana (Spanish omelette with vegetables).
Two bottles of house red, bread, one Irish coffee, a black coffee and a white coffee completed the order and came to a total of £82.30 – a couple of very nice sherries at the bar before going in not included.
Smaller appetites could probably survive on the equivalent of two dishes each but we’d spent the early evening outside in a windy football stadium and – well, for once we had something to celebrate.
21 Leazes Park Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4PF, tel 0191 261 0555, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hallgarth Street, Durham, DH1 3AT, tel 0191 384 4007, email dmailto:email@example.com