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El Cortador – Tasty Tapas In The Creative Quarter

It’s taken me years to get on board with the idea of tapas. It never really grabbed me in the same way as sitting down to a good-sized, wholesome main meal. To me, it always felt like a bit of a tease. Just as you start to enjoy the dish, it’s finished, and you’re left disappointed and unsatisfied, wishing you ordered more portions. If I wanted lots of small plates, I’d go somewhere with a taster menu, or order starters throughout the entire meal, and who wants to do that when there are full-sized plates of glorious things like steak or lobster to get your teeth into? How wrong I was.

It wasn’t until I began taking some short breaks in Europe that I really began to understand this wonderful way to enjoy food. Hopping between the many bars and cafés that line the streets in every European city, you start to appreciate the small plates of cheese and charcuterie as an accompaniment to the drinks. A far cry from our British culture of binge consumption, where waistbands are loosened as the waiter brings over the dessert menu, and you start to perspire and struggle to breathe.

Tapas is a different kind of indulging, where the focus is on flavour, experience, conversation and atmosphere. Done well, it’s an occasion, a festival of merriment where the pleasure keeps on coming. And how glad I am that, not only did I learn to appreciate the spirit in which tapas should be eaten, we are lucky enough to have a fabulous place to enjoy it right on our doorstep.

El Cortador Tapas Bar, The Old High Street (Image credit –

A Traditional Spanish Tapas Experience

The first thing you notice about El Cortador is the atmosphere. The lighting is perfect, something many restaurants fail to get right. You get that sense of occasion, as if surrounded by a relaxed hubbub of celebrations and get-togethers. And the smell coming from the cooking station just feet from where you are sitting is sensational. The open kitchen really brings it all together, and you feel like more plates of food are only moments away, should you fancy choosing extras from the extensive menu. Just as traditional tapas should be, you don’t have to order everything at once.

Plato De Carne – A sharing board of Serrano Ham, Chorizo, Cured Pork & Spanish Sausage with Spanish Cheese, Gherkins & Quince Jelly

Tapas Frias

We started with a few cold tapas dishes to enjoy with our wine – a Spanish organic Malbec from the La Mancha region. The charcuterie and cheese transported us back to our European city breaks – a good start, and delicious. The Ensaladilla de Garbanzos was also good, a creamy, fresh chickpea and goats cheese salad. And the simple Pan y Alioli (bread and garlic mayonnaise) was just perfect to nibble on while we perused the rest of the menu.

Ensaladilla de Garbanzos

Tapas Calientes

One of the favourites of the night was the Gambas al Ajillo – peeled sizzling king prawns with garlic and chilli. Be prepared to be calling the waiter over to order more of these, especially if you have a large table. The juicy, plump prawns were a substantial mouthful, oozing with beautiful garlic and chilli flavours. The Paella Mixta was another stand-out, marrying together perfectly cooked chicken, chorizo, squid and mussels in a very generous portion. This dish had the personality of a full main course, and the flavours were just right, a real Spanish treat.

Gambas al Ajillo
Paella Mixta

Both the Chicken Breast skewers and the Calamari were also beautifully cooked, a testament to the chef whom despite the busy evening, never faltered. And we absolutely had to try the specials that were on offer – a spicy pork mince served with lettuce cups, and fish and prawn croquettes. The pork was devilishly spicy, with a lovely soft texture to go with the cool, crunchy lettuce. And the croquettes were deliciously decadent, an eyes closed, groaning mouthful of pleasure.

Pinchitos de Pollo – Chicken breast skewers marinated with cumin, coriander, garlic and lime.
Calamares A La Romana
Spicy Pork Mince Special
Croquetas De Pescado

Spain on The Cobbles

This popular spot on the cobbles of The Old High Street is well worth a visit. The service is friendly and efficient, the food is fabulous and the value for money is phenomenal. Whether it’s a special occasion, a big group celebration, or an intimate meal, El Cortador is the perfect atmosphere for sharing great food.

Follow El Cortador on Instagram @elcortadortapas. You can book a table via their website or by calling 01303 243974.

Visiting from out of town? Why not book a stay?

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