Fans of Spanish cuisine are spoilt for choice in Singapore. Thanks to a steady increase in Spanish eateries and bars, we now know our tapas from our pintxos, and that soccarat (the crunchy rice at the bottom of a paella pan) is the hallmark of paella done well.
We round-up a list of the best spots in town for a food fiesta like none other. Delicioso!
Part-tapas bar, and part fine-dining Catalan restaurant, Binomio has been serving stellar Sangria and delicious tapas before most of the trendier spots on this list.
They have since gathered a loyal following of regulars, most of whom cannot get enough of the Gambas al Ajillo ($16) of sizzling fresh prawns in olive oil, garlic and parsley; or the delicately charred Cordero ($22) or lamb chops, served with a crust of herbs and nuts.
Begin the meal with drinks and nibbles at their tapas counter (which is street-side on Craig Road, and great for people-watching) and finish at their elegant indoor dining room.
Binomio is at #01-02, 20 Craig Road, tel: 6557 0547.
Photo: Restaurant Gaig
This intimate dining space in Tanjong Pagar is the Singapore outpost of its one Michelin-starred sister restaurant from Barcelona by Carles Gaig.
Far from stuffy and pretentious, the restaurant is warm and inviting. Expect exquisite renditions of classic Catalan fare; Gaig’s traditional cannelloni is a family recipe that remains unchanged since 1869 ($16.50) where pork and foie gras filled cylinders are drenched in the richest truffle cream sauce. Mains include a black-hued squid ink and seafood Fideuà ($32.50) rich in umami ocean flavours.
The award-winning chef visits his Singapore restaurant a few times a year, so if your visit coincides with those times, expect even more delicious seasonal specials on the menu.
Restaurant Gaig is at 16 Stanley Street, tel: 6221 2134.
Photo: El Tardeo
Unlike Binomio, it’s more upscale sister-restaurant next-door, El Tardeo is a fun and casual tapas bar which is always buzzing with post-work revellers.
Their Gin & Tonics are legendary — generous pours flavoured with citrus and served in large goblets, and they have over 40 varieties to choose from, including two Spanish Gins. Food-wise, all the usual suspects on a Spanish tapas bar menu are there. Top choices are the Jamon Croquettas ($9) and the Coca bread topped with wild mushrooms and Manchego cheese ($16).
Prices are affordable, which is always a plus!
El Tardeo is at #01-01, 20 Craig Road, tel: 6221 6288.
In a neighbourhood that sees trendy spots come and go, Esquina has firmly held its ground on the corner of Jiak Chuan Road.
Small and large plates of Spanish and Catalan flavours, in the form of elegant tapas and upscale mains, are all churned out with panache by the team led by Head Chef Carlos Montobbio. Spanish staples have been reinvented here, like the Paella of Bomba rice cooked in lobster stock and topped off with sea urchin, saffron aioli, sugar snap peas and avocado mayonnaise ($32), or their version of the Spanish Omelette, which is served in pancake-like discs topped over slivers of sourdough, olive oil caviar and aioli.
Counter seats are a great choice to watch the buzzy, open kitchen as you devour your meal.
Esquina is at 16 Jiak Chuan Road, tel: 6222 1616.
Photo: Tapas Club
While delicious, a lot of the small plates served at fine Spanish restaurants come with eye-watering prices.
Not at Tapas Club. Here, you get quality nosh at excellent value. Their most raved about dishes include the Calamares Fritos ($12.90) where deep-fried baby squid is served with butifarra sausages and fava beans, and the lush Spanish Omelette topped with thinly sliced jamon and sour cream ($12.90).
Their good-value deals on Spanish beer ($5 onwards) and Sangria (available in red wine and Cava versions, $12 for a glass) make both the Orchard and Vivocity outlet an excellent happy hour spot.
Tapas Club is at #02-13 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road, tel: 3163 7577, and #01-98/99 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk, tel: 6284 4680.
My Little Spanish Place
Photo: My Little Spanish Place
Their Boat Quay location may be more central and accessible, but we are partial to the original Bukit Timah outpost for its charmingly cosy vibe.
They’ve been feeding people since 2010, and the warm service, top quality food and family-restaurant ambience remains unchanged since. Regularly imported servings of Spanish ham (hand-carved to order), cheeses ranging from the typical Manchego to rarer Catalonia Romero, and indulgent signatures like the Grilled Octopus Leg with Red Pepper & Saffron Potato Purées ($38) are all reasons to visit.
A solid list of Spanish wines, Cava and good ol’ Sangria all guarantee a delicious night out.
My Little Spanish Place is at 619 Bukit Timah Road, tel:6463 2810 and 54 Boat Quay, tel: 6532 0665.
Sabio Tapas & Bar
Within the hip Duxton Hill enclave, Sabio is a cosy and intimate spot that has been delivering on its promise of well-executed tapas and potent cocktails for several years now.
From their expansive menu, you cannot go wrong with their solid selection of Chorizo (the Salchichon Trufa is a must-order if you like truffle, $14 for 50g), pintxos (bar snacks, as they are called in Northern Spain) like the Baby Sardines with Marinated Tomatoes ($4) and larger plates like the Meat and Seafood Paella, which come in either single serves or shareable portions ($14-$26).
Sabio has outlets at Sentosa Cove and at The Heeren (the menus vary slightly) but their original and oldest outlet at Duxton Hill is still one of our favourites for its date-night vibe.
Sabio is at 5 Duxton Hill, tel: 6690 7562, #01-02 Quayside Isle, 31 Ocean Way, tel: 6690 7568 and #01-40/#02-03 The Heeren, 260 Orchard Road, tel: 6235 4475.
Ola Cocina Del Mar
Photo: Ola Cocina Del Mar
Ola’s chef-owner Daniel Chavez is no stranger to fine Spanish cuisine, having worked in the kitchens of award-winning restaurants in both Spain and Singapore (he worked under Santi Santamaria at the now-defunct Santi at Marina Bay Sands), and the food at Ola also bears touches from his Peruvian heritage.
Seafood dishes are their specialty, be it the Piquillos ($22) where cod fish brandade stuffed peppers are served with Vizcaina sauce and crispy wild rice, or the Fideua Negra ($38) a noodle-paella flavoured with squid ink and topped with fried calamari, paprika and aioli.
Prices are steep and portions are modest, but the food is excellent so do reserve this for special occasions.
Ola Cocina Del Mar is at #01-06, 12 Marina Blvd, tel: 6604 7050.
La Taperia by Les Amis
Photo: La Taperia by Les Amis
Expectations are understandably high when you sit down for a meal at La Taperia, as you would have of any restaurant by the acclaimed Les Amis group.
Since their opening in 2014, La Taperia have established themselves as an intimate tapas and Spanish wine bar, boasting the city’s largest selection of wines from the region, paired with incredibly authentic Spanish cuisine. Whisky aficionados, there is even a selection of Glendronach single cask whiskies aged in the best Spanish Oloroso casks.
The food does not take a backseat at all; their Crispy Baby Squid ($26) cooked in ink and served with aioli, is insanely addictive, and for dessert their Churros ($3.50 a piece) served with chocolate sauce are often lauded as the city’s best.
La Taperia by Les Amis is at #02-10/11 Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Rd, tel: 6737 8336.
Photo: Don Quijote
While most of the other choices on this list can be classified under tapas bar, or casual-fine dining, this Dempsey stalwart boasts a family-restaurant vibe — complete with kids menu and dining options to suit a variety of palates.
From tapas staples like Patatas Bravas ($8) to heartier mains like Paellas in all sizes, and in vegetarian, chicken and seafood versions, or one with the works (the Don Quijote ‘Especial’, $53 onwards).
Tip: Don Quijote does an excellent weekend brunch. It’s great value at $38++ onwards ($19++ for kids) and you will not go hungry with their array of tapas, salads, Catalan-style pasta and exotic mains like the Stewed Pigs Feet with White Beans.
Don Quijote is at #01-02, Block 7 Dempsey Road, tel: 6476 2811.
FOC by Nandu Jubany
‘FOC’ means fire in Catalan, and it is a fairly apt description as a meal here is vibrant and the mood always lit and buzzy.
Trendy, but incredibly fine is how we would describe the elegant plates that come out of Nandu Jubany’s and Jordi Noguera’s busy kitchens. Inspired dishes on the menu are the Watermelon “Gazpacho” & Smoked Olive Oil Ice Cream ($12) and the FOC-style Prawn Ravioli ($14).
Drinks-wise, their cocktail list holds many winners. The FOC Sangria is arguably one of the best (read: potent) classic versions in town — it’s a highball glass of Rum, Sweet Vermouth, wine and orange juice ($17). The choice of tipples also include a variety of Spanish wines and sherry and rare liquors that the bartenders are happy to put into a libation, on request.
FOC is at 40 Hongkong Street, tel: 6100 4040.
Pim Pam by FOC
Photo: FOC Pim Pam
Unlike its more refined sister restaurant on Hong Kong Street, Pim Pam is a trendy and casual Orchard Road spot that is a welcome change from the cookie cutter mall restaurants on the shopping belt.
The food are delicious nibbles, and the street-facing terrace is where we prefer to sit while chowing down on the Croquetas (in ham, mushroom, crab and spinach and pine nut versions, $5-$6) or their selection of flown-in iberico ham. Their version of Patatas Bravas ($6) are among our favourite potato dishes in town. Here, a deep-fried potato mille feuille is topped with dainty dollops of aioli and salsa.
Tip: Look out for their Boqueria-style Sunday brunches (on ‘select’ Sundays only) where the restaurant is transformed into a buzzy food market complete with live stations, a food parade of their classics and free-flow of Cava, Sangria and more. ($68++ per person onwards).
FOC Pim Pam is at #01-29, 442 Orchard Road, tel:6100 4242.