I was always told “never judge a book by its cover” and this is my advice when it comes to Señor Buddha – another new restaurant in the London Road area, tucked amongst the fast food outlets and just opposite The Joker. Open for just a month, it’s still in its infancy and building up its reputation.
From the exterior, the East Asian and Spanish fusion restaurant doesn’t look much. However, when it comes to the important stuff, the food and wine, it’s nailed it.
The Señor who owns the restaurant, Lee Shipley, invited me and a guest to review the tapas and wine last night and I’m so glad I did, as now I’ve discovered a little hidden gem in the most unexpected of places. It really is little too, just 4/5 tables making an intimate and cosy dining experience.
So what’s East Asian and Spanish fusion? Sounds a little bizarre right? Well, it certainly isn’t the generic East Asian curry menu us Brits have come to know. Having spent time travelling both East Asia and Spain, Lee wanted to create a menu with a twist. Using some of the Spanish tried and tested classics, but with East Asian flavours, he’s adventurously but successfully fused the best of both worlds and designed a menu that’s bursting with fresh ingredients and big, contrasting flavours.
Now on to the details of food and drink… I chose a fine white wine, the 2014 Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand – £7 for a 250ml glass and £21 for the bottle, which was far too easy to drink. It had “stunning fresh, floral aromas, reminiscent of aromatic herbs such as anise and fennel and a smooth and velvety palate with citrus and banana flavours.”
My guest went for the house red which was exceptional. The 2013 Marques de Calado Tempranillo, Vino de la Tierra Castilla Spain – £5.70 for a 250ml glass and £17 for the bottle. It was just as described: “notes of dark cherry and blackcurrant lifted by a hint of dried flowers and spice. Superbly balanced, the forest flavours are perfectly complemented by soft tannins” and served in a large, beautifully shaped glass to catch the aroma.
Our wine also came served with a traditional Spanish appetiser of cooked green peppers sprinkled with sea salt to tide us over whilst we waited for the tapas.
Our first tapas dish was King Scallops & Morcilla de Burgos – £6.50, served on a coconut and cauliflower pureé. Morcilla de Burgos (black pudding) is a gourmet Spanish speciality from one of the highest cities in Spain, Burgos in Castilla y Leon. It’s made with rice, onions, pig fat and 10 different spices and is unlike any black pudding you’ll be used to. Having never liked black pudding before trying this I was surprised to find the Morcilla de Burgos was delicious. Beefy, herby, not at all dry and very moreish. The accompanying scallops were also cooked to perfection, melting in the mouth and not too salty.
Next to arrive at our table was the Green Mango Salad – £3.50, made up of strips of mango, kohlrabi (one of the cabbage family), chicory, onion and dressed with soy sauce, sesame seeds and cashew nuts. Naturally sweet and salty from the soy, this dish was a light and refreshing follow on. It was described as hot and tangy but it wasn’t really, although we did still enjoy it.
Aromatic Soy Lamb Cutlets – £6.50 followed, served with crunchy sweet apple, hot radish and peppery rocket salad. We requested the lamb medium rare and it came just like that, beautifully tender and juicy with a rich flavour. You’re going to want to pick up the bone and get every last morsel off with this one, trust me.
One of our favourite tapas was the Saffron & Coconut Mussels – £5. The accompanying sauce was stunning, fragrant with chunks of ginger and a subtle infusion of saffron and coconut, bringing a semi-sweet flavour to the dish. Such a refreshing change from the usual garlic and white wine option.
Vegetable Croquettes – £3.50 – sesame roasted vegetables and potato, crumbed and deep fried, served with a beetroot and apple sauce. This was probably our least favourite, owing to the fact it lacked a good punch of flavour from seasoning or varied vegetables. I think what was needed was a little nutmeg and sweet potato to add more depth of flavour. That said we demolished the lot.
Our final tapas was Mountain Mutton Stew – £6.50. I’m from a family of amazing West Indian cooks so we were always going to be especially critical of this dish, but I’m pleased to say it surpassed our expectations. It was absolutely superb. As it should be, the mutton is marinated for 24 hours in a dry spice rub and soy sauce. It’s then cooked on the bone in coconut milk until tender. This tapas had a killer kick of spice and layers of flavour. Along with the mussels, this is the one we both highly recommended.
Our last indulgence was three Asian Cocktail Ice Creams – £3 each. We tried all three of the specials this week, which included an unusual but alluring Tequila & Avocado, a super sweet Mango Mojito and rich Chocolate Espresso Martini. My favourite was the mango but my guest loved the original avocado. In all honesty, it was great to have the variety of all three, even if we were ready to pop.
PRICE: £37.50 for 6 tapas plates + 2 desserts (not including wine)
I love the fusion of East Asian and Spanish and I would never have thought it could work, but it does. I’ll definitely be back here again and telling anyone who’ll listen to get down here. It’s the sort of spot that works well for either a romantic meal or a relaxing after work drink and nibbles. The staff were also extremely knowledgeable and discerning when it came to food, wine and spirits and I suspect I’ll be dreaming about that mutton for weeks to come.
NEED TO KNOW
- Señor Buddha is open Mon – Sat for lunch 11am – 2pm and dinner 6pm – 11pm (last orders at 10pm)
- Mon-Thur the restaurant has a nice little offer ‘buy 3 tapas and get a free house wine or beer’
- There’s also a Fusion Sushi evening coming up on the 14th and 28th Oct (£20pp). The 14th is already sold out, but to be notified about the next Fusion Sushi evening add yourself to the waiting list here on the Tabl website.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to review Señor Buddha, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.