If I squint a little into the sun I could almost be in Spain.
It’s an unusually balmy evening and a friend and I are sitting at Putney Wharf sipping a crisp glass of white wine at the newly opened Alquimia – a Spanish tapas restaurant on Brewhouse Lane.
We arrived on a Wednesday evening and were pleased to be able to take a table outside overlooking the river creating a buzzing Al Fresco vibe rarely conjured up by the lacklustre British weather.
We were off to a good start.
But you can’t always rely on the British weather to muster a Mediterranean climate to enhance your dining experience.
Was the food any good?
The restaurant, which opened in April, is owned and managed by Spanish native Adolfo Garri, a former sous chef who has worked in London restaurants for the last ten years and who previously spent a year at a Michelin starred restaurant in La Calle in Spain – so I was expecting greatness.
To start we had a bowl of olives and breads to dip in olive oil which was a perfect start to the meal.
We then shared four tapas starters of red tuna tartar with a mixed tomato concasse and guacamole (£8.80), warm beetroot and duck breast salad with orange and grapefruit (£8.20), grilled prawns with garlic oil (£7.80) and free range chicken croquets (£6.90).
Based on their portion size I would have said two would have been plenty, but we polished off all four none the less.
The tuna tartar was a surprise hit and not something I would normally order, but went beautifully with the guacamole sauce – a tangy hit of spice balanced nicely with the tuna which was not overpowering.
The duck was cooked to be lightly pink and was tender, but with just a couple of slices each was a bit thin on the ground.
Our giant prawns arrived shell on presented with a wedge of lime and sea salt – beautifully simple flavours and served piping hot.
The chicken croquettes were probably the most plain of the four dishes, but tasty all the same with large chunks of chicken and potato in crisp shells.
For my main I went for one of the specials – fillet of sea bream in a chicken and vegetable sauce with peppers, aubergine, onion and olives topped with crispy noodles. (£18.80)
The olives left a pleasant after taste on the palate and worked well with the chicken sauce which is not a combination I would have expected, but which was very enjoyable, while the fish was firm and light.
However the crispy noodles, which may look pretty on the plate, failed to serve any real culinary purpose in my opinion and I would have much preferred a small portion of rice or potato instead.
My guest went for the lobster with seafood and rice (£19.80), served out of the shell, which she said was very tasty and very filling.
To end we were just able to squeeze in one of the restaurant’s in house creations – the Dracula. (£6.75)
This unusual dessert featured vanilla ice cream with a raspberry coulis topped with coca cola snow and Oreo sand.
Not a combination you would expect to see in what is a high end tapas bar, but which surprisingly worked well together, although I’m not sure it won me over enough that I would order it again.
Alquimia is not somewhere most people (including myself!) could afford to dine regularly (our meal came in at about £60 a head), but it is definitely worth saving for a special occasion if you are feeling flush.
Its location, authenticity and fine dining experience, coupled with an unpretentious, almost continental atmosphere, make it a winning combination.
Alquimia – Spanish Restaurant & Tapas Bar – Brewhouse Lane, Putney Wharf, Putney Wharf, London, SW15 2JX, 0208785 0508