Southgate’s Spanish sensation

Neil Littman returns to his favourite local haunt

The bar at La Paella and (inset) patatas bravas
The bar at La Paella and (inset) patatas bravas

One of the reasons for starting a food column in the Dispatch last summer was the uncertainty regarding how the hospitality industry was going to emerge from the pandemic and a desire to promote the borough’s best venues.

Food critic Giles Coren recently claimed that major news events were making him feel guilty regarding eating out. To make up for this, he reviewed five restaurants in one column without saying anything too specific about any of them and, a week later, drank so much at a new opening that he couldn’t remember what he ate.

I hope to avoid such influences but, having said that, the atmosphere at La Paella in Southgate is conducive to drinking a jug or two of sangria! Family-run since 1995, and now run by the founding owner’s son Miguel Mota, this place has a great vibe. I am convinced most of the regulars have just returned from a Mediterranean holiday and want to continue their vacation experience. Live flamenco music and dancing have even featured at times.

La Paella is located on Southgate Circus, opposite the tube station, and is the only surviving Spanish restaurant in Enfield. Its menu is mainly geared towards tapas dishes gathered from various regions in Spain. I have eaten here more than anywhere else in the area because it caters for both a quick lunch and a leisurely dinner. On one occasion I visited with my girlfriend who was eager to practice her Spanish speaking skills and engaged with our waiter who replied in the language until she asked him which part of Spain he was from and he said “Albania”!

The interior is traditional with a bar taking up the front of the restaurant, where you can feel transported to Spain. It’s a nice touch. The menu is divided equally between vegetarian and meat or fish tapas. They also serve single portions of paella, which normally would be ordered as a main course between two or three people. In addition, they have a main course menu offering a wider range of paella dishes as well as steak or fish but, so far, I have preferred the variety and sociability of sharing several tapas plates.

I went there with two friends and we ordered olives (which tasted of anchovy), fish croquettes, wild boar with chips, homemade bread, chicken and prawn paella, patatas bravas, king prawns with garlic and a selection of cheeses with membrillo (quince paste).

La Paella stocks a range of Spanish beers such as Estrella, Gallicia and Mahon Cinco, which you may not find elsewhere, as well as a selection of sherries – sangria doesn’t appear on the menu, though most people who eat there seem to know it will appear on request! We finished with crema Catalan and coffee. No matter how many times I have been to La Paella, it surprises me how filling the small plates are.

Our bill for eight dishes, dessert, coffee and a bottle of wine, plus service, came to just over £100. Individual tapas dishes are between £5 and £9.

La Paella is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 12-3pm and 6-10pm; Fridays and Saturdays, from 12-3pm and 6-11pm; and Sundays 1.45pm-9pm. Booking is advisable on Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information and to book:
Call 020 8882 7868
Email [email protected]
Visit lapaellatapasbar.com