Covid has brought changes to all our lives, including the bit of it that we spend eating out. The restaurants we’ve been to, since they were allowed to reopen in July, all seem to have adapted well and Hispi is no exception. Tables seemed relatively distanced, staff are masked (and we were reminded that we have to wear masks when leaving our table, say to visit the loo), there’s sanitiser around – it all felt as safe as it could be. There’s changes to the food offerings. The menu has been pared back and, rather than an individually priced carte, is now a set menu priced at £39 for three courses. A bit pricier than the local competition, particularly as there was a supplement on one of the main courses and you will probably need to order a side, regardless of what main you order. No doubt to save on overheads, I think it’s the same menu at all five of Elite Bistro’s locations. It may be pared back in the number of offerings at each course but there’s still lots of choice.
That said, we both ordered the same starter. Chicory leaves coated in a tangy sweet mustard dressing, sat on an almond and garlic sauce which, I reckon, owed its heritage to the similar Spanish dip, ajoblanco. Our server recommended dispensing with the cutlery and just pick up the leaves with our fingers and drag them through the sauce. It was, if you like, a simple salad – but this was a clever, multi-layered affair – crisp leaves, soft unctuous sauce, tangy dressing. It all worked so well.
For main courses, there was beef featherblade, braised for ages and hardly needing a knife to break it up. Good sauce, as well. And a dollop of earthy beetroot ketchup. And there’s chips - not fries; not the ubiquitous fat chips – but proper chips, nicely fried. Fish for the other plate – roast cod, perfectly cooked. It came with lightly griddled cabbage, the crunch from it nicely contrasting with the soft fish. The cod is topped with a raisin and caper “tapenade” for a bit of tang. And there’s an almond sauce, almost imperceptibly flavoured with curry spices. But, for a complete plate, the former needed a veg, while the latter needed a carb. But we sort of forgot to order the sides.
Only one of us wanted dessert. It was perfectly fine crème brulee – it’s never a dessert to shout from the rooftops about. We finished with very good espresso.
Service had been excellent throughout – warm, informative, timely and efficient. Perhaps the essence of hospitality. Nothing more is needed.