Newest Review: ... of Parma ham and a bowl of black and green olives dressed with some rosemary, raw garlic and olive oil. There was also a small bowl of sal... more
Tapas forever... and ever.
Member Name: ryanando
Advantages: really nice food up to a point
Disadvantages: slow/ no service, a touch overpriced, not really authentic
Word of mouth is an amazing thing. It's how I get onto most things that I love. I'd imagine it's how a lot of people find things they love assuming they have managed to collect a bunch of people around them who have similar interests. Even better, people with completely different interests occasionally chip in a rare gem. Mostly television and books are the things I dive into on the word of others, hoping that it's going to be as awesome as it says. Very occasionally, however, I will trust other people with food.
My partner Allan has a cousin Vicki who we "hang out with" regularly (I will look past the fact we are all above the age of ten and therefore "hanging out" seems a bit weird). She has awesome taste in both things and stuff. Recently she's been visiting a little restaurant nearby and giving it rave reviews. Since both myself and Allan love to eat, we decided that we should, in fact, go to this restaurant with her to see what all the excitement was about.
The restaurant in question is Gracie's on Brook Street in Broughty Ferry (a little posh-but-not-really village that likes to think it isn't part of Dundee, but really is). During the day it's a neat little café but at night it's a full blown restaurant offering both meals and a tapas menu. Occasionally they also put out boards that change the name of the café to Gracias. You see what they did there?
Just in case you've never had tapas before, it's basically lots and lots and lots of small portions of different things that make up a main meal. A great, social way of doing food that fills you up, allows you to try lots of different things and leaves you with a lot of room to converse and enjoy yourself. That's how it works in theory anyway.
The restaurant is quite a pretty little thing with dark wooden tables and chairs and luxurious brown leather seating everywhere. The walls are warm oranges, creams and reds and the artwork around the restaurant roughly sticks to a similar colour scheme there are candles on the tables and the bar looks very pretty and fully stocked with spirits and beers. First impressions were great. Everything looked comfortable, warm and stylish. It helped that all of the male staff were very pretty, tattooed and wearing tight jeans and white shirts. Allan, Vicki and myself were drooling over the packages that were serving us. Lets just say those men were carrying a heavy burden.
When we arrived we were given the full selection of menu's available including the wine lists. We were coming for the tapas which was £14.95 per person and consisted of five set "courses". The foods that came in each course were detailed on the menus in their groups. Very well laid out and easy to understand. Though I didn't notice till about half way through our tapas that desert is not included if you buy tapas which I felt was a little mean of them. It was around £4.50 extra if you felt like dessert afterwards. They also have an entirely vegetarian tapas menu which is great if you or your friends aren't keen on meat.
===On second thoughts===
On to our experience of the night! Unfortunately as soon as we sat down the illusions of warmth, style and comfort were... not shattered... but slightly marred. First of all we had to ask for plates before the meal arrived as our table hadn't been set out properly. The waitress kindly moved the plates from the empty table next to us. The tablecloths were actually just thin paper napkins big enough to fit a table. Any spillage and the tablecloth turned to mush. Not usually a huge issue but if you are having tapas, it tends to be placed in the middle of the table and you all take what you want and put it on your plate. That can lead to a lot of spillage over the night (and it did) so our cheap tablecloth was annihilated by the end of the night.
The luxurious leather seating (which I had referred to as a "comfy seat" when asking my partner where he would prefer to sit) was actually rock solid. There was a little padding between your bum and the wood underneath but it was too little by half. Throw in the fact the seats were quite high, if anyone who was a little on the short side sat on them, their legs would probably end up dangling. I'm 5'8" and my feet only just touched the ground. This meant that the wood under the chair ended up digging into my legs. The warmth soon became an oven in which we were cooking from the outside in. Thankfully someone realised and opened the front door onto the frosty Scottish night outside. A cool breeze was welcome but it was almost as uncomfortable as the heat. So did the food make up for any of this? Yes and no.
===Start your engines===
The waitress came over fairly quickly and asked us if we were ready to order. We already knew we were going for the Tapas so it was fairly quick. We also, on the recommendation of Vicki, ordered a jug of Sangria to share.
The starter course was brought to us on a lovely dark wood chopping board. There were three slices of cheese, a chunk of tortilla de patatas each, a bowl of small slices of bread to dip in the garlic mayo a pile of Parma ham and a bowl of black and green olives dressed with some rosemary, raw garlic and olive oil. There was also a small bowl of salad.
The cheese was gorgeous; like a strong, dry cheddar but a bit more flexible like Edam. Really delicious. The tortilla de patatas is basically a cheesy, eggy and potato pie type creation (think quiche). It was creamy and warm but not incredibly strong flavour wise, which was fine as it didn't intrude on the flavours of everything else on the platter. Personally I would have enjoyed it a little more if it was a touch cheesier, but it was still lovely. The warmth of this was also quite nice next to the other pieces on the platter which were served cold.
The olives were interesting. I'm not a huge fan of olives at the best of times as usually they bite too hard for me. These olives didn't have that bite to them which was nice but I think the flavour was a little bizarre. I actually thought that they tasted a bit like vicks vapour rub. After I said it, Vicky agreed and cursed me for ruining the olives for her. Apparently she was enjoying them till I pointed that out! For some reason my brain hadn't realised the garlic was raw until it was too late and I crunched into half a garlic clove. My mouth instantly protested by burning profusely. My breath reeked all night after that.
The pile of Parma ham was lovely. It wasn't too dry as some Parma ham tends to be. Instead it was moist and succulent without being soggy. As well as the lovely texture, it had a gorgeous but mild flavour that complimented the other bits and pieces nicely without overpowering anything.
The bread bites and garlic dip were also fantastic and possibly my favourite bit of this course. There were more than a few bread bites too so we dipped away to our hearts content instead of rationing them like we did with the other foods. When we ran out of bread, I started dipping the salad into the tasty dip. Partly this was to make the salad taste better. The leaves they used were quite bitter and despite a shiny coating of something (I'm thinking it was possibly just water now) there was no dressing that any of us could detect. The shiny coating wasn't even oil as we discovered when we picked it up and our hands came away grease free. The salad was a bit of a let down, but the starter was a course we all enjoyed quite a bit.
Normally I don't like Sangria. I'm not a huge fan of wine or brandy (which is usually the main alcohol content of the drink) and most of the times I've had it, the oranges and limes haven't had time to soak and let their flavour get into the mix. Vicki had already warned us that the jugs cost £15 each; as such I had expected them to be huge. I was slightly surprised when they brought it over that it wasn't actually all that big. One jug gave us one and a quarter small wine glasses each. I was a little taken aback at the price of it but went with it anyway.
The first spill of the night occurred when pouring the Sangria; apparently a very gentle tip was required even though it felt like it would roll down the side of the jug instead of into the glass if you did this. Apparently I was wrong. A fair amount soaked the table instantly turning the table cloth to mush and making me have to use my napkin to mop up the floor. After I got over that incident, I tentatively took my first sip and was glad to find that I didn't think it was terrible. It's definitely not like any Sangria I've ever tasted before. For a start we saw the bar man (drool) mixing some Tesco brand Fanta into the jug which I'm pretty sure isn't supposed to be in Sangria. It had a nice fruity flavour to it and a bit of an aniseed aftertaste; I assume there was sambuka or ouzo in there somewhere. I was glad it didn't taste like Sangria. It was drinkable and after two jugs we were a little bit tipsy (never mind the alcohol we drank before we arrived). If, however, you like authentic Sangria, you probably won't be too impressed with this concoction as, while it is tasty, it's not very authentic.
===Coming in second===
With our appetites teased by our tiny first course, we were quickly served our second offering. This consisted of Meatballs in an Italian style sauce, Chicken thighs (on the bone), a spicy potato dish with a creamy sauce and a plate full of garlic mushrooms. All of the dishes in this round were served hot.
The meatballs were in a lovely tomato, herb and garlic sauce and were cooked to perfection. Unlike the first course they had given us an un-even number of meatballs which we thought may be an issue. That was until Vicki dropped her first meatball onto her lap, had it bounce onto mine and then fall to the floor where we couldn't find it for love nor money. Suddenly it was even! Yay! The meatballs were perfect and full of flavour. The sauce was so nice that I ended up spooning it into Vicki's mouth for her after we were finished with the other nibbles. Spot on! Allan also loved the meatballs, though did end up with a bit of the sauce on his shirt too. I was overjoyed as I had been mocked something terrible for spilling the Sangria. Now we were all covered in food!
Next I tried the chicken thighs. There were three given to us so we got one each. Allan was a little concerned as he really dislikes chicken with bones in; it freaks him out quite a bit. Vicki and I dug in and I was instantly in heaven. The skin of the chicken was perfectly cooked, a little crispy and lightly seasoned. The meat was moist and succulent and just fell apart in my mouth. Absolutely delicious. The cuts we got were also good in the fact that they had only one tiny bone in them. Normally with thighs (or chicken on the bone in general) the bone takes up a big chunk of what you are presented with resulting in a lot of picking and scraping etc. These chicken bits, however, were mostly meat so even Allan managed to eat it and enjoy it without freaking out. Thumbs up from all three of us.
The potato dish (Patatas Bravas) was new potatoes with the skins on, halved and in some sort of spicy, tangy mayonnaise sauce and ended up being just a touch too spicy for Vicki. I quite enjoyed it but was a little surprised when I was hit by a burst of spice that must have been hiding in the sauce resulting in another slight burning sensation in my mouth. Allan, loving spices and loving potatoes, snarfled most of this dish. I liked it but didn't feel the need to fight him for more.
Lastly this course came with a plate of garlic button mushrooms. The stalks had been removed from most of them and they were filled with a little melted garlic butter. Allan can't stand mushrooms so Vicki and I shared this plate and were both very impressed. It's difficult to go wrong with garlic mushrooms really. This dish is a little greasy by nature so you may not be too impressed if you don't like greasy foods. On the plus side, if you don't like it, you can simply give your share to someone else!
Our plates were well and truly covered in sauces and bits by this point. It was becoming obvious that we were getting stuck with the same plate the whole night. As such I would suggest if you don't eat anything that you scrape it back onto the serving plates before they take it away otherwise you'll be left with remnants of your previous courses. I began using my napkins to clean my plate so that the next course wouldn't be tainted by the sauce of dishes past.
By the time the third course came, we had started our second jug of Sangria and were getting a little antsy about the heat. The third course consisted of Pork in creamy cider sauce with rice, barbecue spare ribs, chicken chorizo and red pepper kebabs (on skewers) and chunks of chorizo
This course was a little less neatly presented and if I'm being honest looked a bit unappetizing. The smell wasn't amazing either. Allan thought it smelled like cat food, I thought it smelled like someone had let a really stale fart go. Tasty eh?
The food, however, was a lot nicer than it smelled. The pork in creamy cider sauce with rice was well cooked, and the meat fell apart in my mouth. It was delicious but it was a little too creamy for me as I was starting to feel a little full but Allan and Vicki tucked right into it.
The chicken kebabs were lovely, the red pepper was nice and sweet, the chicken and chorizo perfectly seasoned and grilled. Mouth watering stuff.
The ribs caused a little bit of a problem for Allan as they were full of fat and gristle at one end. They didn't have any bone in there to indicate where to stop eating so both myself and Allan ended up trying to eat the wrong end and having to gracefully spit it back onto the plate.
The chorizo chunks were lovely, if not a little chewy. They tasted a lot like pâté and so we were a little confused as to what it was before I looked at the picture of the menu I had taken earlier. I'm an obnoxious reviewer with a camera flash, ok?
===Four strikes and you're out.===
Three courses down and we were quite happy with the place. Before the night had started the waitress had asked if there was anything we weren't fond of or didn't want served to the table. I hate seafood and Allan wasn't in the mood for any of it apart from the haddock. Vicki likes it but didn't want to have to eat it all herself so we asked them politely if we could only have the haddock and no other seafood. We assumed that as they have a whole other vegetarian menu, we would be offered something from this course to replace what we were missing.
The platter arrived in its full glory. Haddock. And Mussels. And Calamari. And Prawns. The waitress was apparently being speedy Gonzales that night and had rushed off before we could point out that we hadn't wanted anything but the Haddock. After a few frustrating minutes of being ignored by every passing waiter while they asked every other table around us if everything was ok, we finally caught the girl's eye. To our surprise she didn't offer anything else when we reminded her we had only wanted the Haddock. She simply informed us that the next course would be Paella. Not wanting to cause too much of a scene we took the two bits of Haddock from the platter and let her take the dish away.
===Course five...or four again...===
20 minutes later the waitress re-appeared. In this time we had become a little grumpy over the fact we weren't offered a replacement course and had now waited 20 minutes for the next instalment. To our surprise she had a plate full of Haddock and asked if we had ordered it. The same waitress we had had all night. At this point we reminded her about the night, and gently reminded her that it was time for the last course.
Another 10 minutes later she walked passed and stopped to ask what it was that we were waiting on. Our frustration was beginning to grow. We reminded her again that we were waiting on the chicken paella. 10 minutes later Allan had decided we had been waiting too long and went to the bar to ask what was going on. The girl who was serving us spotted him, picked up a menu and stared at it intently before running away into the kitchen. I actually laughed at how ridiculous that was when I saw it happen.
The waiter at the bar apologised and then came across to ask if it was the seafood paella we were waiting on. NOOOOOO!!! NO SEAFOOD!!! We all gritted our teeth and told him it was the chicken paella we were waiting on. His response? "The chicken and seafood paella?". All three of us almost bashed our heads off the table in frustration. How bloody difficult is it?! CHICKEN BLOODY PAELLA PLEASE. Thank you. Allan also suggested we should get a free jug of Sangria as a good will gesture which the waiter agreed to.
===Tick, tock, tick, tock===
Five more minutes and not one member of staff had graced the bar with their presence to make this jug. Nearly an hour on one course. We were fuming. Eventually the Chicken paella arrived (no Sangria). In the hour we had possibly forgotten we were at a tapas bar and all of us simply looked at the tiny plate of grey chicken and rice and raised an eyebrow. We could practically hear each other thinking "we waited an hour for THAT!?"
Not to be unkind, we tried the dish. The chicken was dry and overcooked; the rice was bland and flavourless. Vicki who had been before was shocked as to how bad it was, saying that she'd had the chicken paella before and it certainly wasn't like that. It was almost like it had been cooked an hour ago and forgotten about.
===Get your coat, you've pulled===
Having each had a forkful of the terrible last course we decided to call it quits. We had been there two and a half hours by that point and wanted to go meet our friends elsewhere. As we got to the bar the missing jug of Sangria was just being finished by the bar man. We told him we weren't sticking around to have it. In a moment of clarity he offered to take one of the jugs we'd already had off of the bill (£15 a jug if you recall). We each slapped down £20 and got 5p change back. We left disgruntled and feeling a bit like we hadn't gotten our moneys worth given that we'd missed a whole course that could have easily been replaced. Grumble.
===Skip to the Loo===
Toilets need to be clean. If they aren't the place isn't going to get full stars. Popping through the back I noticed a line of coat hooks (I assume for patrons of the restaurant though as it's completely out of sight of the rest of the place I would not be leaving my coat there unattended) and the toilets. It's all on the same level as the restaurant so fairly easy access for everyone. The men's toilet was clean but it was also tiny. One of those ones where you have to squeeze round the door, pushed up against the loo to get out. The tiny cubicle contained a sink, a soap dispenser and a toilet roll holder. I hadn't used any toilet roll so I hadn't noticed that the loo roll holder was apparently not being used. Allan, however, discovered this when he went later and reached for toilet roll only to be met with a two inch cut on his finger from a serrated edge. Apparently the loo roll was actually at the side of the toilet.
The women's loo also doubled up as the disabled toilet and had a baby change facility and plenty of room for a wheelchair. It was also clean and everything was in order (Vicki told me all of this after she came out of the little girl's room as I didn't want to go into it even though it had the disabled sign on the door.
It all started off so well but was quickly soured by the lack of attention paid by the waiting staff. No notes seemed to be taken when we were asked if there was anything we didn't want and the communication issues they bumped up against when we had finally had enough of waiting were, quite frankly, amateur mistakes. Vicki has had a great meal in the place before but from this experience Allan and I won't be returning any time soon. The seats weren't as comfy as they need to be if you are going to stay the whole course and I felt the drinks were overpriced for what you got. The meal itself was a fair price as long as you will eat everything on the menu, but the fact they don't replace something if you don't like it is a bit poor. The toilets were clean if a little small. Overall I'd give it a three stars and a "must do better" or at least "could do better" written in red pen.
Summary: A tapas restaurant that really could do better.