â€śMy Little Spanish Placeâ€ť is an endearing mesĂłn, or Spanish bistro, with just as affectionate a story. Before its birth, Chef Maria spent 25 years helping her Abuela (Grandmother) in two family-run restaurants in Spain, the country known to have a love affair with seafood. Diners here can and should embrace her mastery of it.
Nestled within a row of shophouses in the royal mile on Bukit Timah Road, right by Princess of Wales Road, a breezy verandah beside a warmly lit bistro beckons with authentic home-cooked Spanish fare.
â€śMy Little Spanish Placeâ€ť is everything the name suggests: an endearing mesĂłn, or Spanish bistro, with just as affectionate a story. Chef Maria Sevillano, a humble, petite lady hailing from the Castille y Leon region in northern Spain, brings to the table culinary experience that began more than 25 years ago, whilst helping her grandmother in the kitchens of their two family-run restaurants in Spain. The country is known to have a love affair with seafood and diners here can embrace her mastery of it.
My Little Spanish Place Interior
Eating here is comparable to a good night out in Madrid or Barcelona, the verandah is especially inviting in the evenings; an appropriate level of chatter and Spanish tunes weave in between tapas and glasses of sangria. When in Spain, eat as the Spaniards eat. Start by ordering three or four tapas, before progressing to a hearty pan of paella or fideua (a variation of the paella where short noodles are used instead of rice), and of course no meal is complete without sangria.
The wide array of tapas leaves you momentarily stumped, until Edward Esmero, the friendly and knowledgeable manager swings by to offer his recommendations. The tortilla (Spanish omelette), being the national dish of Spain, naturally cannot be passed up and is served with a lively homemade mayonnaise of garlic and olive oil (aioli).
The tortilla (Spanish omelette)
Other tapas that do well include prawns in white wine, garlic and olive oil (Gambas al Ajillo), where the winning trio complemented the well-cooked prawns that yield with a bite, the pairing of marinated salty anchovies with sweet roast red bell peppers, and the tender grilled squid. Stuffed with caramelised onions before grilling, the squid is infused with the sweetness of the onions, and cuts with the slick firmness of fish.
Gambas al Ajillo and Marinated Salty Anchovies
The Cochinillo Asado (baby pig slow roasted in white wine and garlic) is a specialty of the Castille y Leon region, where Chef Mariaâ€™s hometown resides. The skin is a delectable crisp with its meat still surprisingly tender. While at the bistro, enquire for small portions if you did not manage to call 4 days before for an entire pig. A full pig should prove to be a crowd pleaser for dinner parties when Edward cuts up the tender cochinillo with just a plate.
Mains are substantial for two or three to share: the house special of golden saffron rice, Paella de la Casa, is cooked with chorizo, a spicy Spanish sausage, chicken and succulent seafood. The squid ink paella also stands out as not many Spanish restaurants offer this on their menus and, given the chefâ€™s flair with seafood, would be a good alternative to the default choice. Donâ€™t neglect the soccarat, the slightly burnt crust lining the cast iron pan, which some say is the most rewarding part of a paella, with nutty, toasty nuances.
Cheery star-shaped churros strips rolled in sugar and cinnamon await at the end, or ask to try assorted sweets of turron (nougat), marzipan candy made with almonds and polverone (Spanish almond cookies).
Staying true to her roots, the wine list is replete with choices from all regions of Spain and Chef Maria makes all sangria (red, white and the sparkly Cava) from Spanish wines only. Service is attentive without being imposing, and you may find yourself lingering over a cup coffee unwilling to leave Spain at the end of a good night.