#1 – Spain – Laxeiro, Columbia Road

So the long, long, journey through the FIFA rankings finally began with Spain’s nominated representative, Laxeiro on Columbia Road. A swift pint at the nearby Royal Oak beforehand, and we arrived at Laxeiro just as they opened for the evening.

Our 7pm booking denied us the bustling atmosphere we’d read about but things swiftly picked up and, by the time we stepped back out onto Columbia Road, it was full to capacity. Apparently, they received an early blot on their copybook, as the hand-dryers were “like having someone blow on your hands to dry them”.

Our friendly but not hugely cheerful waitress quickly indulged our curiosity about Estrella Inedit, a wheat beer with notes of coriander, orange peel and liquorice. All sounded fairly disgusting, but it came in a champagne-style bottle with a nice little booklet tied to it, so we took the chance. And indeed the empty bottle, when they weren’t looking.

It wasn’t cheap at £9 but, as suckers for the novelty factor (and the generous 750ml bottle), it was a worthy investment that saw us comfortably through the food it claims to have been designed to accompany. I detected the orange peel straight away, but the coriander and liquorice hints remained fortunately elusive.

Eschewing the gargantuan, but arguably unadventurous, plates of paella, we picked out five fascinating raciones plates (see gallery above). The perfectly-grilled chorizo criollo resembled a Bavarian weisswurst, but was trumped by the ever-reliable chorizo al vino. The pimientos de padron, which could have served equally well as a pre-paella appetiser, were a charred, salty, bitesize delight.  The tortilla Española, admittedly pretty difficult to get horribly wrong, combined well with the crucial absorbent bread-basket in the carbs department.

Perhaps the anti-climax of our selection, though, was the rather glutinous calfs liver with sherry (undetectable) and onion (highly detectable), which didn’t inspire on arrival and certainly didn’t put our tapas-sharing etiquette to the test.

We could well have squeezed in a couple more raciones to our tiny table  (the calamares and presa Iberico were perhaps shameful omissions in hindsight) but our selection fulfilled its primary duty of being greater than the sum of its parts.

For the sake of eating FIFA, I felt obliged to order dessert. The white and milk chocolate cream, a Spanish staple I’m sure, was almost literally crying out for something biscuity (Busquetsy? No.) to go with it. No Mata, though, as I shovelled it gleefully into my mouth and asked for the bill once we’d finally caught the attention of the rather stoney-faced staff.

No nasty surprises lay in wait. We hadn’t overindulged on the tapas and the £54 total did, of course, include our all-mouth-some-trousers Estrellas.

Food: 75.5

Drink: 77

Service: 63.5

Atmosphere: 67

Value for Money: 67.5

SCORE: 70

We celebrated the debut of Sebb Platter by heading to the colourful surroundings of The Birdcage’s karaoke night. A local’s stirring, operatic rendition (in Spanish, naturally) of “Without You” seemed fitting, and we loped smugly off to Liverpool Street, looking forward to the next instalment.

Adios!

EatFIFA.

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