Food review: Emma's top tapas provides amazing lockdown value
Great customer service, helpful communication, stunning food and prices that knock spots off her rivals, writes Andy Richardson.
And the votes are in. We have a winner in the contest to find the region’s best value lockdown dinner.
Step forward Emma Yufera Ruiz and your crazy £25-for-two tapas menu. Now put your prices up to £30 so that you make something resembling a profit.
Before we get onto the food, let’s just look again at that price. £25. That’s twenty five pounds. For two. Bonkers.
Before the food reaches you, Chef Emma has to buy the ingredients, cook the ingredients and pay the 20 per cent VAT bill – she’s a new business so isn’t VAT registered.
Then she’s got to cook the ingredients, package the dishes, process the orders, print out the menus, write down the instructions then print those out too.
Then she’s got to get her customer’s addresses, pop in the car, make sure she drops the right package at the right address then get home to do the accounts.
Oh yes, we forgot, she’s also got to wash up. And she’s charging £12.50 a head. Ridiculous. At those prices, you may as well buy two bags; one for this evening and another to eat in the week.
But I’ve run away with myself and ought to rewind. Emma Yufera Ruiz is exceptional.
Those with half decent memories will remember a tapas bar that she used to run in Shropshire, before she decamped to Birmingham to open the brilliant El Borracho De Oror, an upmarket tapas bar.
She’d do things like pan roast a whole suckling pig over a bed of potatoes.
Heaven is… Under Emma’s leadership, El Borracho was named the city’s best restaurant in 2016, not bad for a city that currently boasts five Michelin stars.
Fresh, authentic, cooked with passion and served with a smile, she set the standards that others followed before getting busy with life, and stuff, and finding herself back in Shropshire.
Birmingham’s loss is our gain. Opening a new restaurant during the worst economic crash in 300 years and the worst global pandemic for 100 years is probably not a good idea.
And so Emma has started again from scratch, cooking the food that she loves and delivering it to your doorstep. Boom.
The thing is: it’s brilliant. Emma’s Shropshire tapas bar was formerly the county’s best.
At present, there’s a half-decent restaurant in Shrewsbury, Casa Naranjo, though nothing approximates the brilliance of El Borracho. Until now.
Emma’s is back-to-basics brilliant. Big flavours, great value with customer service that’s some kind of brilliant. That’s the fifth time I’ve used that word or a derivation. I’ll stop now, before it becomes repetitive.
Here’s the thing. Lockdown has created a really small number of winners among the sea of losers.
While many chefs and restaurateurs bury heads in the sand and wait for this all to pass over – presumably, avoiding their online banking and its details of an ever-expanding overdraft, as though that might make things alright.
Restaurants are bleeding customers. Businesses are being washed away. While that’s inevitable given the crisis we’re living through, there are plenty who could do more to stem the tide.
Conversely, there’s a really small bunch of enterprising, entrepreneurial and creative cooks and restaurateurs who are rolling up their sleeves and getting on with it.
Innovation and graft is the name of the game for people who refuse to be beaten.
Chef Emma can count herself in the latter category. Rather than sit around drawing up business plans, go out for socially distanced walks in the park or dreaming of a better day, she’s taking the first small steps to building another successful business.
Starting at square one, with doorstep deliveries, orders of party food and private catering, no order is too small for the Telford businesswoman driven by success.
It’s not enough to have the right attitude, of course. Those in it to win it also need the right skills. And that’s where Emma excels.
Our tapas for two was a delight. Generously served – it lasted two days, so make that £6.25 each – and the flavours exploded like a carnival.
Spanish food at its best is as dazzling as La Sagrada Familia, as energetic as Ibiza and as dramatic as Park Guell.
It is vibrant and punchy, colourful and packed full of sweet, spicy, savoury flavour.
We started with a little tomato bread; thin slices of toasted bread topped with a grated tomato mix.
Seasoned with Maldon Sea Salt and good quality olive oil, the bread soaked up the sweet, red tomato juices and made for the perfect start.
Meatballs were delicious. Popped into the oven to warm through for 10 minutes – we avoided being lazy and popping them into the ‘ding machine’ for three – they were perfectly formed nuggets of flavour.
Though the balls were a winning blend of well-seasoned pork and beef, it was the sauce, however, that stood out.
Rich, sticky, full of vegetables, small pieces of bacon and all kinds of wonderful, it showed that as well as having the chutzpah to run a successful business, Emma can also really cook.
A chicken and chorizo dish was similarly flavourful, with tender pieces of meat swimming in an indulgent red wine and chorizo sauce. The heat was gentle and unobtrusive, the flavours perfectly comingled.
Patatas bravas were small, crisp cubes of fried potato that provided a suitable companion to flavoursome and rich alioli and brava sauces while sweet red peppers stuffed with cream cheese, pinenuts and spinach provided a contrast to the tomato and meat-based dishes.
With a fabulous and generously proportioned tortilla of manchego cheese and herb finishing things off, we ate like kings at our stay-home Spanish banquet.
Emma has the pedigree to make herself one of lockdown’s winners and though building a business always takes time, as Emma well knows, she’s taken the first important steps to re-establishing a presence in Shropshire.
Great customer service, helpful communication, stunning food and prices that knock the spots off her rivals; she’s bringing an authentic taste of Spain to the county.
En la variedad está el gusto – variety is the spice of life: Emma is offering that and then some.
£25 for six courses so that two can share
Pan Con Tomate – rustic bread with grated tomato dressing
Tortilla Espanola con Manchego – Manchego cheese and herb tortilla
Patatas Bravas – potatoes with alioli and brava sauces
Albondigas – pork and beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce
Piqullo Telleno – sweet red peppers stuffed with cream cheese, pinenuts and spinach
Pollo con Chorizo – chicken cooked in red wine and chorizo sauce
Home delivery service to Shrewsbury, Telford and surrounds
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