The spirit of tapas lives on in a new guise at Paco
The philosophy of tapas is very much about sharing – be it the small servings, a bottle of sherry or lively conversation. The new restaurant Paco has this at its heart, being as much about conviviality as cuisine.
Only open since October, Paco is quickly becoming a neighborhood hangout, hosting a diverse stream of patrons from students to families or elderly couples, pausing for a bite and a chat anytime from midday through to one in the morning.
Their unforced, affable energy is reflected in all things, from the deadpan whimsy of a papercraft pig’s head presiding over the left wall, to the manner and smiles of the staff.
The light, open interior synthesizes the social nature of tapas dining, though the appearance is perhaps not what you remember from summer holidays: Here, there are no towers of well-worn sherry casks, nor any weather-beaten old man slumped in his chair at the porch swatting flies. More stainless steel and exposed brick than aged wood, this renewed take on Spanish-style snacking is dominated by an open kitchen, the engine that fuels their instantly warm atmosphere.
Its contemporary look belies its old-school hospitality: The surrounding marble-topped bar runs almost the length of the premises, with stools for first-come-first-served diners attracted by the spectacle of head chef Raquel Garcia Sanchez at work.
A Spaniard in the Works
Rather than resting in one region, the menu presents manifold specialties from across the peninsula: Chipirones from Galicia, fine slivers from an authentic cured Jamón Iberico, Pescaito Frito and the melt-in-the-mouth Tortillas typical of Andalusia.
The dishes appear in traditional terracotta: the expertly cooked and thick-sliced Pulpo a la Gallega (Grilled octopus) needs no more than lightly seasoned pak choy and a little paprika. Though at €13.80, it’s something to enjoy with company.
Their Pista Manchego mit Ei (Slow-cooked vegetable stew with poached egg – €5.50) is satisfying and ideal when spread generously over thick slices of bread, though not enough to distract us from our conversation – just as it should be.
But their Eichelschwein Backen (Braised acorn-fed pork loin – €8) might be their crowning glory. It falls apart effortlessly beneath the fork into the bed of pumpkin puree toppling the crispy fried zucchini that masterfully complements and balance the rich meat.
The staple tapas dish of prawns in chilli and garlic (€9.50) are again executed to succulent perfection and our white wine, an Albarino (€4.80), is intense and dry, with a neat, peppery finish and a slight acidity that tangos with the seafood. To my disappointment, I can’t stay to sample more from the list, which also includes an array of excellent Sherries and desserts, though I did return the following week for another glass and a chinwag, discovering an outside terrace holding a further 40 seats.
This far from the sea, it’s no wonder the pleasure of its bounty will cost a little more – making tapas less of a meal for the everyman in the Spanish tradition and more of a delicacy. But the quality never cuts corners, and Paco’s service and aesthetics makes the experience absolutely worthwhile. Hasta Luego!
9., Nussdorfer Straße 7
(01) 89 03 785