Food and Foraging

Dehesa in Soho has the weather but not quite the food to make an Iberian evening of it

And so to Dehesa, a place that my wife says she has often wandered past and looked in longingly as they serve elegant versions of Iberian tapas, mixed up with some home-grown ingredients and flair.

The evening was just perfect for a tapas bar - sultry, people sitting in cafes nearby in the Carnaby Street environs.

And as we walked in the place had a buzzy, warm feel, a mixture of Spain and New York thanks to the elegant wood surrounds and tall metal-leather stools to perch on.

The next step wasn’t so good, however. We asked for a table outside but they told us they were fully booked. Yet five minutes later a whole load of tables were removed. So… clearly they just wanted to just clear up early.

Would the food improve my mood? The waiter was helpful and charismatic as we picked our way through the à la carte.

First to arrive was cherry wood smoked trout with samphire, sorrel olives and almond dressing. The samphire and sorrel added a nice salty-sour edge to add to the creamy almond flavour. However the trout was barely perceptible amidst some big flavours.

The intention was clear: punchy tastes to the fore and a richness of saucing to back it all up, but would the other main ingredients deliver?

Lamb cutlets were breaded, which somehow failed to seal in any juices and keep the meat tender. The surrounding broad beans were tasty if a little undercooked (probably to stop them breaking up).

The best dish by far was a small fillet of hake on a bed of tasty olive oil mash with some sweet clams, chorizo and parsley. Rich, dark juices melded nicely into the mash although there was some bitterness - probably the fish had been dipped in too long when making the stock.

Patatas fritas were lacking a flavour of olive oil or potato - just a very strong taste of paprika, dusted on. Which actually makes them patatas bravas. The accompanying aioli was lacking garlic and texture.

A kind of clafoutis - cherry with custard - was ruined by a topping of the all-too-fashionable salted caramel ice cream.

So overall, you feel that, the last dish apart, this is a menu devised by a skilled and intelligent chef, but that it’s beyond the regular kitchen staff to make such ambition work. Which is a shame: perhaps its sister restaurant Salt Yard in Goodge Street will prove a very different proposition.

Dehesa’s score: 4/10