A trip to Helensburgh found us making a visit to La Barca – the Spanish restaurant which sits on the front – to take advantage of their lunchtime deal of three tapas for £9.95. The menu for the deal boasts a variety of dishes – although it is prudent to note that 17 out of the 28 meat and fish dishes have a supplement attached to them. You can, however, order around these extras and still have a fairly reasonable selection – only a couple of our dishes ended up costing extra.
Although we each picked three dishes which we fancied, we shared everything between the three of us. My first dish of choice was Queso de Cabra Frito – breaded, fried goat’s cheese with tomato and red onion chutney – was very tasty. Like a posh mozzarella stick, gooey cheese oozed out of a crispy coating and was complimented by the sweet chutney. The Calamares a la Andaluza were, sadly, not crispy but otherwise well cooked rings of squid served with a tasty garlic mayonnaise. Croquetas de Pollo y Jamon Serrano – chicken and ham croquettes – were nice, if a bit forgettable.
The Patatas Bravas were the typical chunks of fried potato in a tomato sauce – definitely a nice way of adding some carbs to the table. Another of mum’s choices – Vientre de Cerdo y Jerez- also went down very well. The melt-in-the-mouth chunks of pork belly were complimented by the spice of the black pudding and the sweetness of the sauce that accompanied them. The Croquetas de Haggis y Jerez- one of our dishes with attached supplement – were another good choice, with peppery haggis fried in a crispy coating.
Mum especially enjoyed the Albóndigas en Salsa Espanola, commenting that the dense meatballs were the best she’d had at any tapas restaurant. The Paella de Carne was also very nice, with plenty of good sized chunks of chicken and chorizo. The final of dad’s orders was another of my favourites on the table. Montado de Pollo delivered crispy garlic bread with tender chicken – a dish that was especially enjoyable as it was a little different to those which we order more often.
We also ordered the Pan Fresco Rustico – three slices each of sundried tomato bread and an olive bread served with oil and balsamic vinegar. Both types of bread were soft and fluffy, and made a good accompaniment to our other dishes.
While all the food was pretty tasty, La Barca fell at a hurdle like so many tapas restaurants before them. Instead of bringing dishes as they are ready, La Barca delivered all nine of our hot plates at once. While this might make sense logistically, it means that a number of the dishes were lukewarm, and rapidly cooling, when they arrived at the table. It’s a pity that many tapas places serve this way, as it is a problem which could be so easily remedied.
However, though La Barca followed suit in the way they served their dishes one thing made them stand out against their competitors – their service. Polite, friendly and chatty, the waiters were a pleasure to be served by without being overly familiar.
Despite one or two hiccups, our visit to La Barca was relatively good. I would return to La Barca if I was in the area, especially given the good value of their lunchtime deal and the generally high quality of food.