The name of this new Hammersmith tapas joint, which translates as fat bull, is bang on the money. It’s big, bold and boisterous. It’s unashamedly a feeder. And it couldn’t be more Spanish if it wore a sombrero.
It doesn’t though, that’s the point. Toro Gordo isn’t a slice of the quaint flamenco-drenched Spain you get in many tapas restaurants around town, but rather a chunky slab of the stylish, urbane Spain that you might find on a Barcelona backstreet.
Bright yellow walls, Spanish tiles and hanging paella pans are ousted in favour of an industrial look led by metal beams, rough plastered walls, bare wood and wire mesh. Home comforts in the form of lanterns and plants take the edge off, but it’s the beaming welcome as warm as the Spanish sun that really sets the tone.
Matching the setting, Toro Gordo’s food offering is cosmopolitan rather than clichéd. Pole position goes to a dish entitled chorizo diablo, given its devilish moniker due to the fiery sauce in which soft chunks of the paprika-spiced sausage sit. Other highlights include prawn and spinach croquettes which boast a deep bisque-style shellfish flavour, tender skewers of gently spiced lamb, and plump prawns in a viscous white wine sauce heavily laced with garlic. Gutsy serrano ham is of a pleasingly high quality, richly meaty in taste and with fat that melts seductively on the tongue.
Bullishly crossing boundaries, the menu pools international influences in dishes such as sliced sirloin steak that comes with oyster mushrooms and a soy dressing, or brightly flavoured, almost-raw tuna accompanied by a punchy wasabi mayonnaise. They’re both no doubt influenced by the two years that Toro Gordo’s owner, Miguel Caffarena, spent travelling Asia recently. While we welcome the notion that tapas can be experimental as well as traditional, these dishes aren’t the ones which will bring us back. They’re well executed and sturdy stand-alones, but when the table’s varying tastes begin to mingle — as they invariably do with tapas — the flavours jar. Manchego and wasabi aren’t a natural match, as it happens.
Still, being a tad over-experimental on a couple of dishes in the early days of a restaurant’s life is something we’re happy to let slide.
We’re less forgiving of the complete absence of sherry on the drinks list: did they miss the memo that it’s hot stuff these days? It might not be a fortified fan, but Toro Gordo is keen to showcase a blinding selection of rosé wines. It’s not our typical tipple and took our persistent waitress to bring samples to our table to persuade us to go pink, but an offering from Navarra stole the show and a little piece of our hearts while it was at it. We strongly suggest you opt for a similar tasting rather than reverting to a repetitious Rioja.
Oh, and make sure you fit in a finale of churros with chocolate sauce. They’re hot, crisp, fluffy and completely worth getting a bit gordo for.
Toro Gordo is at 121 King Street, W6 9JG.