Having spent many happy weeks photographing in Andalusia, mention of the word ‘tapas’ conjures up evocative mental images.
I remember sun-scorched days when weather-beaten labourers in blue overalls, checked shirts and flat caps sought refuge in the shade of the local bars.
They sat on high stools at long wood-panelled bars underneath huge serrano hams as they chewed the fat – and a seemingly endless stream of snacks – washed down with glasses of beer or spirit shots. Prawn shells, nuts and other detritus from the tapas crunched underfoot.
The word ‘tapa’ means a lid or cover in Spanish, and decades ago a slice of cheese or ham was given with and placed on top of the drink.
It’s not known if this was to keep the flies out or hide the smell of bad wine! Tapas have come a long way since then and are now a cuisine in their own right.
Tapas in Yorkshire are a bit different from the Andalusian version. Although El Gato Negro in Ripponden, of all places, has gained a reputation for some of the best tapas in the whole of the UK. The newest kid on el bloc is Casa Colina in Slaithwaite, in the old Endogan’s premises.
It’s ironic that tapas developed as an appetiser with a drink as, like Endogan’s, Casa Colina has no alcohol licence. In some ways this is a bonus, as you can take your own drinks at supermarket prices and, unlike in most bring-your-own restaurants, you’re not charged corkage.
The 32-cover restaurant is a family affair, run by Paul and Linda Bastow and daughter Kara Brown. Between then they have many years of experience in the licensing and restaurant trade, and all of them live in Slaithwaite.
They opened the restaurant in April and have risen to the dizzy heights of current Trip Advisor number one of 188 Huddersfield restaurants.
They kindly squeezed two of us in at short notice, provided we left by 8pm as the restaurant was fully booked.
The tiny interior has been redesigned with a rustic Mediterranean look. The decor is rich and colourful, with duck-egg blue walls and aubergine and lime glassware.
The sun doesn’t beat down on the restaurant and Casa Colina doesn’t pretend to be an authentic Spanish tapas bar. Most of its dishes are of Mediterranean or North African origin.
Everything is cooked from fresh ingredients, Mum is front of house and Dad and Kara are holed up in the basement kitchen. Which is why, the friendly waiter explained, they all wear earphones – so they know when the food is ready.
They are members of Totally Locally and support local suppliers wherever possible. The chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage), for example, comes from Colne Valley Charcuterie.
If you’re out by 6.30pm or 7pm, you can have three tapas for £10 a head. We were spoiled for choice, there were 37 dishes on offer, including several gluten-free and vegetarian options, and chose the “7 for £32” offer.
The crab cakes special with chilli dip were an inauspicious start. They were fine, but a bit more fish and a few less breadcrumbs would have improved the taste.
We needn’t have worried; all of the other six dishes met or exceeded expectations: the lamb tagine, whitebait and aubergine gratin with serrano ham were especially worthy of mention.
The lamb had been slow cooked with dates and pomegranate juice to produce a flavour which was rich, sweet and memorable. The aubergine gratin melted in the mouth and was perfectly complemented by the savoury ham.
Our other dishes were harissa chicken skewers, beef stifado and tortilla (potato omelette). Each portion was served in a smallish dish, but there was ample and we even took some home. We’ve already decided that next time, gambas pil pil, meatballs, stuffed peppers and Andalusian pork will also be on our list.
VERDICT: Excellent choice for fresh and well-prepared Mediterranean food. Ask for the dishes to be served at intervals.
Kiln Hill, Slaithwaite HD7 5JS
Tel 01484 846451 or 07837 325183
Opening hours Friday, Saturday, Sunday: food orders 5pm to 8.30pm. Groups of 12 or more out of hours by special arrangement
Disabled access Sorry, no
The bill £32 for two (bring your own drink)
Would you go back? Yes, definitely