It’s sometime in the late noughties and I’m entering a narrow courtyard in Westbury-on-Trym. At the top of a flight of stairs is a pristine kitchen. Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias are at the hobs ready to provide an afternoon of taste exploration to boggle the mind as well as the tastebuds.
This was my first taste of the iconic Casamia, only a few years before Jonray’s untimely passing. What a privilege it was to have met the man and tasted his food. I was producing Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 at the time and was so keen to get them on the show.
After leaving the restaurant in a haze of contentment, I went downstairs and met the main man – the boys’ father Paco, who had even more charisma than his sons’ incredible food. So maybe it’s no surprise that with Casamia’s move to riverside development The General (formerly a hospital), along came a tapas restaurant named after this wonderful guy.
But Paco is not just a figurehead – he helped develop the now-Michelin star menu along with Peter and development chef Josh Green, and his warmth and passion permeate the place – and its menu. I mean, have you tried the tortilla Española? The humble Spanish tortilla is such a simple and rustic concept but is delivered here with serious attitude.
Although Peter and Josh will never give away their secrets, the key to the world’s finest tortilla, they say, is double the amount of egg yolks to whites, caramelised white onions and confit potatoes. With its loose texture, this dish oozes in your mouth. Another Paco Tapas classic has to be the quail, stuffed with sobrasada and dates. It’s so good that it’s become a signature dish, a regular favourite on the menu.
There is, naturally, a great wine and sherry list at Paco Tapas, but if you want to recreate these dishes at home I’ve got a couple of Spanish beauties to wash them down with. The richness of the tortilla needs a wine with texture to stand up to those eggs, and Beronia Rueda Verdejo 2018 is an exceptional match. It’s a white wine from north-west Spain with fleshy pear and tropical pineapple notes, which are fab with the caramelised onions. There’s enough weight to this wine to envelope the confit potatoes and a herbaceousness that is great for easy, sun-soaked drinking!
As for that exquisite quail, it’s got to be sherry. Oloroso Aurora from Jerez in southern Spain has a deep amber colour and an immediate dry freshness that works with the meat, while the mineral and citrus lift cuts through the sticky pork in the sobrasada, and the nuttiness is ace with the paprika that’s in there too. And finally, there’s a raisiny end, made for those Medjool dates. This is a delightful drop – dry and fresh to start and sweet at the end.
Paco Tapas is a Michelin-starred restaurant with a warm heart. Not a bad resident in the very building where I had my tonsils removed as a kid (and, not to mention, had a reputation for the worst food in Bristol…). Thanks, Paco and team, for bringing things up to standard here.
Andy Clarke is a freelance TV producer and writer, follow him @tvsandyclarke