Editor's note. The last day of La Mancha will be 23rd August 2015. A pity to see it go.
La Mancha was a long established tapas bar in Putney that opened in 1989, but in August 2013 relocated to Chiswick. It is on the site of what used to be Chella, a Persian restaurant. The chef Nili Gaada is from Galicia, and has moved here from the original Putney restaurant.
The dining room has tables along one side of the room opposite the bar. Walls are plain, with some exposed brick, and there is a wooden floor. There are a couple of original pieces of art on the walls, one of a horse and one involving a donkey, hinting at the restaurant name (Cervantes’ Don Quixote is the man of La Mancha; his squire Sancho Panza rides a donkey). Spanish guitar music played in the background at my visit. There is a short wine list starting at £15.95, with wines such as Torres Vina Esmerelda 2012 at £20 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £7, Marques de Caceres Reserva 2004 at £36.50 for a wine that retails at £19 and Moet et Chandon at £55 for a champagne that will set you back around £47 in a shop. As well as tapas, there were a few main courses, and paella prepared to order at £13, taking 30-40 minutes to make.
Tortilla (£4.95) was of the traditional variety, the texture a little drier than you would find in somewhere like Nestor in San Sebastian, but pleasant enough (11/20). Sardines (£6) were simply grilled and served with a slice of lemon. A very simple dish, but properly cooked (12/20).
Gambas en gabardina (£6) were prawns wrapped in filo pastry and then deep-fried, served with a piquant tomato sauce. These were very pleasant, cooked properly, though the sauce was perilously close to a well-known brand of ketchup (12/20).
Double espresso (£3) used Illy coffee, and was very good. Service was fine. The bill for one came to £29 at lunch with service included and just water to drink. In the evening this would not appear unreasonable, at lunch it seems quite expensive given the deals available at some pretty serious restaurants in London. The food at La Mancha is competent, and a pleasant addition to the area. It is not a dining destination, but delivers capably as a neighbourhood restaurant.
At a second visit the general standard was confirmed. Padron peppers were lightly cooked and well-seasoned, whilst prawns in garlic sauce were tender. Seafood paella featured non-chewy squid, decent mussels and nicely cooked rice, though the stock in which the rice was cooked had limited flavour. Almond cake for dessert was bought in, but bought well, from a supplier in Santiago di Compostalla. By contrast the ice cream with it (also bought) was mediocre and should be improved. Less than a week after opening it was already turning tables on a weekday evening.
Further reviews: 24th Jul 2014