David Adamson tucks into tapas with friends in little old Gatley
I came perilously close to dining alone at this tapas restaurant - which, let’s be honest, is just a bit weird. I had booked the table for three a week previously and on the morning of, my friend - let’s call him Alistair - texted to say he’d had to dash to London with work.
I messaged friend two - let’s call him Bhavik - to check we were still on, to an unnerving ten minutes of radio silence. Then the three dots of doom appeared.
“You’re not going to like my answer either…”
“Wait, I tell a lie. I can do tonight.”
A quick call to friend three - let’s go with Ant - and the table still stood.
Thank god I didn’t end up dining alone - there’s no way I could have eaten all that by myself.
On the crossroads of Gatley centre, opposite the poshest Art Deco Co-op supermarket/former cinema you’re likely to see, sits Bodega, a tapas restaurant and cocktail bar with an identity crisis. Is it Spanish or Greek or just Greeish or Spanek? Or just Mediterranean on all three sides: Europe, Asia, Africa. Yep, probably that one. Bodega makes it sound Spanish, despite the etymology of the word, but it's really not: read on.
From the outside it looks like a straight-up-and-down restaurant, but inside the décor is given a bit of zhuzh with the addition of paintings of famous musicians including Bowie, Amy Winehouse and - because there’s no party without punch - Liam Gallagher.
Oh and there’s also a bicycle.
We sat down by the window and set about amassing the kind of lengthy order that is simply necessary when eating tapas. A bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of the other.
We started with bread and oils (£5.50), a varied mix of seeded, white and brown with olive oil and balsamic vinegar alongside an aioli with a fields-worth of garlic in it. That’s not to say it was overpowering. In my book, the more garlicky the better.
Alongside this was the meze mix (£8.50), hummus, stuffed vine leaves and a pasta filo as well as sucuk beef sausage and the obligatory tzatziki and chilli salsa.
The vine leaves were fine if a little nondescript in what exactly that taste was, and the hummus had the right tang of tahini. The tzatziki was not quite as garlicky as the aioli but not far off, and the filo pastry was a sweet accompaniment to the salty feta inside. I don’t think I’d ever tried sucuck before, having a slight aversion to things described as ‘sausage’ that isn’t pork. However it was well seasoned and spicy, certainly earning its place in the midst of a meze.
We decided to include some of the ‘inbetweeners’ on the order - the kind of dishes that occupy a space somewhere between the starting pistol of bread and oils and the determined, headlong rush through a substantial paella. Whitebait it is then (£7).
I’d happily sit and eat whitebait pretty much constantly through the entire day, doing away with the rigours of breakfast, lunch and dinner and instead making the day one big grazing session. They were coated to just the right degree, not too much batter but not too little either. The sight of one of the little fella’s faces staring out through the batter confirmed this, even if it did unsettle Bhav a bit. The tartare sauce was a solid accompaniment but I would have liked to have seen a few diced gherkins in there to give it the extra whack needed to battle past the mayonnaise.
To be honest, I’ve never really cared for patatas bravas (£5.50). It just doesn’t do it for me, but because this is tapas you, naturally, have to see if you were wrong all along. I stand by my word, here - as seemingly everywhere - the potatoes weren’t crispy enough and the tomato sauce was a tad watery and light on any sense of punchy taste. Maybe one day I’ll be proven wrong.
Sticking with the theme of food that comes under the loose banner ‘Mediterranean (general)’, we saw the haloumi fritters (£6.50) and thought sod it, why not. Of course it’s not difficult to rustle up a dish like this, and here it wasn’t, so they were a welcome, if slightly incongruous, addition to a table of tapas.
The same, slightly loose approach to what constitutes a traditional tapas menu continued with the inclusion of lamb skewers (£11.50), which were a little overdone and therefore slightly tough, which is a shame because if left a little pink lamb can really sing.
Discussing this more middle-eastern/North African inflection with my fellow diners, I made the joke of the food being Moorish, which fell very much on deaf ears. So of course I included it in here to give it another go.
One surprising inclusion which definitely justified itself was the BBQ ribs (£9.50) - yes, I know, not very tapas. A slice of orange, squeezed into the BBQ sauce, gave it a welcome shot of citrus to cut through what can be a hearty if a little homogenous sauce.
Now onto one of the classics of tapas; gambas pil pil (£9). These really did not disappoint; each prawn was about the size of a spaniel and swimming in a garlicky oil that, were I ever captured by cannibals, I’d ask to be gently seared in. Every time spent plates were cleared I was sure to cling onto the roasting dish with this lovely elixir in it, dipping anything I could in it. It’s worth a visit just for these.
Paella, the greedy centre of any tapas order that gobbles up everyone’s appetite, is of course a legal requirement. We opted for chicken and chorizo (£13.50). The chicken was perfectly nice but not anything extraordinary, as is often the way with chicken, but the chorizo was a little closer to grabbing your attention. The rice had that saffron undertone any good paella possesses and was suitably plumped up with stock. It would have felt odd to have not ordered paella, and here it’s good enough to go along with the tried and tested rules of tapas.
For me the enjoyment of tapas is as much about who’s sat around the table as what’s placed on top of it, but there’s no doubt that if you provide the company then Bodega will bring the dishes, and keep bringing them, and bringing them. But
Thank God I didn’t end up dining alone - there’s no way I could have eaten all that by myself.
BUT and it's a big BUT, we mean a REALLY BIG BUT, don't call yourself 'authentic Spanish tapas' and then serve 'halloumi' and 'meze' and 'tzakiki' because that is a fib. And naughty. You're a place of the middle sea, not just of Spain.
Bodega, 191-193 Gatley Road, Cheadle SK8 4BB.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Bread and oils 6, meze mix 7, whitebait 8, patatas bravas 5, haloumi fritters 7, lamb skewers 7, BBQ ribs 7, Gambas pil pil 8, chicken paella 7
Friendly service from a small team who are never far away if you need to order more.
Colour and character on every wall, and if busier than when we attended I’m sure there’s a great buzz for a meal with friends.