Cafe Espana is a little restaurant in 63 Old Compton Street, in Soho. I have been to this place about ten times since I came to live to London. But do not get me wrong. This is not a good place to eat; moreover, it is an awful one, and I would hate if English people thought that this place is anyhow representative of the Spanish food.
The fried squid, the prawns in garlic, the garlic chicken, the Spanish omelette…. everything tastes really bad in this place. The fish is not fresh whatsoever and it is fried with obviously many-times-used olive oil. Sometimes they completely forget to put salt and other times the plates are extremely salty.
Yesterday I went to Café España again because it had been a long time since we did not go (more than two years) and it is not that we forgot how bad the food tastes, but we were kind of hoping that the place improved, and we wanted to have the only good thing this place had: an intimate environment and nobody rushing us to finish our food (it closes at 1 Monday to Saturday, which is something good in a city that usually sleeps at 11 pm). The thing is that we actually had good times in this restaurant in the past, watching the Londoners pass through those little Victorian windows in the first floor that you can see in the photo, having deep conversations that you just cannot have in many other places, listening to typical Spanish music, dealing with the friendly owners, waiters and even with the people around, drinking cheap-but-still-good red wine… The environment was really great (one day we even sung all together Sevillanas and the Happy Birthday song to me), and the fabulous garlic bread, of course. That is the ONLY thing this place makes well. The garlic bread is really nice (still), perfectly tosted (crispy but soft), hot, wit the correct amount of garlic… it has got a 10 from me, but it is not a matter of eating just garlic bread for dinner.
Yesterday the experience was worst than ever. The fried squid, one of the few things that were decent before, were absolutely terrible. The rations are now smaller than they used to be, but we could not even finish that plate of horrendous squid. The fried anchovies were the best of the night for me (boquerones fritos) although a bit salty, and they were OK if you compared with the rest of things we ordered. The chicken croquettes were two, and the chicken taste on them was too artifitial, like if they did them with a huge Magi cube. The Spanish omelette was indescriptible. The potatoes were barely cooked, the egg was artifitial (made with Huevina); it had onion but too big cut and uncooked, with asparagous in the middle…: Atrocious. Even the house wine is worse than it used to be, and bad wine in a Spanish restaurant… is something it should be forbidden.
When we entered the restaurant, we saw one of the owners going out. Perhaps his working hours had finished or maybe he is not working serving tables anymore there and he just went to check on the staff… I am not sure. This guy told us in the past that they were from Galicia and there was another guy there who resembled him, so I suppose those two brothers are the owners of the business. Who knows, who knows. I really do not care. The place was bad in the past, but it managed to get even worst. The only charming thing that had (apart from the garlic bread): that lovely music, friendly Spanish waiters… it´s gone. There are now Italian waiters, who look overwhelmed serving the tables and breaking glasses continuously; the music is too low, sometimes it even stops… and everything makes this a nasty experience to live.
The charming soul of that horrible little place has definitely died and I would not recommend it even to an enemy.