Escocesa, Stoke Newington Church Street, N16

Church Street is practically an extension of my living room, (if I had one) – It’s cosy, filled with hipsters and displays an array of vintage ornaments.

I’ve become one of those locals who hogs the same bar spot and I even volunteer in the local charity shop. The faces I see on an awkward first date sipping craft cider; are the same faces I see handing me their unwanted holiday books and questionable garments. The days before Valentine’s Day, saw an impressive collection of bondage books bought in – we didn’t display those. One gentleman visited just for a pair of Wellingtons. Yet, my favourite customer has to be a woman who came in search of a ‘new’ scarf for her friend’s birthday. I guessed from her rushed manner that she must have been on her way to the birthday lunch there and then. Anyway, she turned her nose up at my suggestions. I wonder what her friend got in the end? A box of milk tray may have been the backup. They are all very obliging though, unlike someone I once knew – who when purchasing his books from the charity shop, haggled on the price.

A fifteen – minute brisk walk from my flat is: Escocesa, and I hadn’t been in until last week. I first thought that Escocesa was a pretentious affair – offering mussels and cocktails served in spindly glasses with a cluttering of fruit. I was not wrong about the cocktails – it has quite the evening boozy reputation. There’s even coloured chairs roadside to chatter on. I went for Sunday lunch with my cousin – a catch up over squid and olives seemed a sophisticated alternative to clogging oneself up with Yorkshire pudding batter, or wiping mash potato off a neighbouring child’s placemat.

The man behind the rather out of place fishy joint, located opposite the fire station and near to curry houses, is ex record producer, Stephen Lironi. Upon reading an article in the press, Lironi was filled with nostalgia – that all of the best Scottish seafood would be sent over to Spain as there was no market for expensive catches. It evoked memories of when his mother and father drove him and his siblings to Glasgow to Palamos in Catalunya in 1974. Anyway, his plan was to hijack some of best Scottish seafood and serve it up Spanish style. For those who aren’t fluent in Spanish, Escocesa is Spanish for Scottish, makes sense to call it that then.

Tapas is dangerous, you get greedy and want absolutely everything. We were fairly  hungry – my cousin could still taste last night’s tequila and I had survived travelling back from Blackpool, with nothing more than a Costa Coffee cheese and chorizo toasted sandwich. Yummy. Yesterday’s plastic toastie enhanced my desire for: little food dressed up with pretty sauces and strips of pointless garnish.

We kept things dainty and opted for; mixed olives, fried baby squid, tuna tartare with smashed avocado and courgette flower stuffed with goats cheese. Bread and oils were extra and we slurped on coca cola. The presentation was beautiful, staff were charming and the food was fabulous – there just wasn’t enough of it.

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The bill came to over £20 a head – I was still hungry and was envious of my neighbour’s paella. To be fair, you can share a paella for £14 – not bad at all. This may have been a special. Other menu staples include; juicy pan con tomate, piquant patatas bravas and tortilla. Their seafood options have serious sass: scallops from Ullapool, langoustines from Lochinver. Veggie options include; artichokes with alioli, fried aubergine with walnuts and sugar-cane honey.

I sat in crampt conditions with a red velvet curtain as an unusual backdrop – signage read: ‘Dream Baby, Dream.’

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I think we made hazy hungover choices, perhaps. It felt more birthday treat than spontaneous lunch, but what we did have was pretty great. The squid wasn’t greasy and the tuna tartare was rather pleasant. I savoured every mouthful. Tell you what, come to the charity shop on the high street for your date shirt and you can even have the mussels. My advice, if you’re going to go –  then go all out, get a seafood platter and lap up the wine. It’s the worst place to go if you’re starving and on a budget.

Food: 8/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Value for money: 6/10

http://escocesa.co.uk

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