Whether it’s an evening out with the girls or a date night with the mister, tapas restaurants are generally a fail-safe option for tasty food and drinks and a good time out no matter who you’re dining with. There’s something about sharing several plates of small dishes that promotes a relaxed, easy pace of dining, and plenty of conversation and laughter (a pitcher or two of sangria doesn’t hurt either!).
Of all the “hot” dining trends that have hit Hong Kong’s international dining scene in recent years, from steak-frites to burger bars to baos and bite-sized tacos, I’m probably most glad that tapas have stuck around, with new spots constantly popping up around town. It can be hard to stand out in a saturated Spanish-style dining scene, but newcomer Tapagria definitely makes an impression, with flavour-packed dishes, attentive service and a great ambience.
The first thing that strikes you as you enter this restaurant – situated on the 18th floor of The ONE mall in Tsim Sha Tsui – is the stunning view, probably the best I’ve seen on Kowloon-side (sorry Ritz Carlton!).
A fully unobstructed view of TST and the Victoria Harbour can be enjoyed along with a cocktail or two on the beautiful outdoor terrace at Tapagria, which is sure to become a new go-to destination for showcasing the city to out-of-towners, once word spreads. Inside, the restaurant decor is just as stunning, with curved walls, high ceilings and plush furniture making up the chic bar, open kitchen and dining space.
The restaurant is simultaneously spacious yet intimate, friendly yet exclusive, and we enjoyed being able to partake in the energy and excitement emitting from the open kitchen and bar – complete with a blazing fire overhead – while reveling in our own private corner of the room.
Food and Drinks
The menu at Tapagria (“tapas” + “sangria”) offers a good mix of traditional tapas and more innovative dishes, as well as a selection of 65 sangrias. You could come here every week for a year and still not sample all the fruity concoctions, so we decided to put our choice in the hands of the waiter and go with one of their signatures, the Smoked Red. The pitcher of sangria arrived smoking at our table, and I loved that deep, sultry hit before reaching the relatively light concoction underneath – a refreshing blend of gin, brandy, cointreau, grilled apples, oranges and grapes.
For a stronger kick, I couldn’t resist ordering the Smoked Whiskey Sour halfway through the meal – this one made with Maker’s Mark, lemon and egg white. The drink was perfectly balanced with the tangy whiskey mellowed by a splash of citrus and that foamy egg white, along with the sweet note from the cinnamon stick.
The tapas menu is extensive and the chef is constantly adding special seasonal menus, so I would recommend asking your waiter for some top recommendations. We chose to whet our appetites with a bowl of marinated olives accompanied by house-made flatbread and a board of silky 48-month Iberico Ham. I almost wish we skipped the olives and bread and ordered two plates of the ham, with its heavenly, nutty aroma and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
After polishing off the ham, we dug into a plate of Andalusian-style deep fried baby squid, which were perfectly crispy on the outside and tender inside with the spot-on seasoning enhanced by a citrusy squeeze of lemon. This was followed by the scallops wrapped in bacon, which definitely made up in flavour and execution for what they may have lacked in the innovation department.
We were told that the Slow-Cooked Suckling Pig was a Tapagria specialty, so of course we had to order this, given that my dining companion is an avid meat-lover. Although not big in portion size, the dish presented bold flavours, with a crispy, crackling skin coating a layer of slow-cooked, flavourful fatty pork.
To round off the savoury portion of the meal, we had to order the paella – one of my all-time favourite dishes. The restaurant serves up different types of this scrumptious Valencian rice dish every night, which is displayed proudly in a massive paella pan when you first enter the restaurant. Ours was a traditional seafood paella, with the stock-simmered rice dotted with muscles and squid, and crowned with a beautiful shrimp to share between the two of us. I’ve had a fair share of too dry, too oily or under-seasoned paellas so I’m happy to report that this paella was on-point, with the flavourful rice enhancing the beautifully cooked seafood.
For dessert, we opted for a special on their current Las Fallas menu – Pumpkin Buñuelos – which were essentially fried doughnut balls dusted with a cinnamon-sugar coating. For me, this was the one miss of the night, as I found the batter to be a bit dry, although the fried sugar coating was lovely, leaving me to eat around the outside and leave the dough ball on the plate (very un-ladylike, I know). The second dessert fared much better – a luscious and creamy vanilla panna cotta topped with a fresh berry sauce.
Service was attentive all night, and our requests promptly fulfilled. Our server gave us excellent recommendations, and even explained to us the proper way to build an iberico ham sandwich with a clove of garlic, tomato jam and bread (yes, there’s an art to it!).
Tapagria is one of those restaurants that has mastered the mix of good ambience and quality food, without needing to charge exorbitant prices for one or the other. The tapas dishes all range between $100-200 a plate, and sangria is around $250 for a half jar (four glasses), so you can easily indulge in a filling meal with food and drinks for around $500/person – a very reasonable cost given the beautiful setting and attention to detail in the dishes. I’ll definitely be back to sample more of the menu, or maybe just enjoy a glass or two of sangria on the outdoor terrace.
Tapagria is open daily from 12-2:30pm for lunch and 6-10:30pm for dinner. The restaurant offers a set lunch of 3 tapas and a dessert everyday for $168 plus 10% surcharge.
Tapagria, 18/F, The ONE, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, 2147 0111, www.tapagria.hk