Tapas FTW

Be they hot or cold, Spanish tapas have made their way into the hearts of foodies everywhere – and the neighbourhood of Seef. Enter: Salero.

They say “too many cooks spoil the broth”, but this couldn’t be further from the truth at Salero, a trendy new Spanish restaurant located at The Westin City Centre Bahrain in Seef – putting Adliya to shame in the process. One of the few places in town serving the likes of paella and patatas bravas, it is rooted in tradition and authenticity. Chef Jordi Bataller, who hails from Andalusia and delved deep into his mother’s recipes and grandmother’s cooking techniques as a child, spearheaded the menu. And executing his creations is Chef Juan Luis Pérez Moeremans, who also refers to the south of Spain as home. To say Juan has gastronomy in his DNA would be an understatement. Born to a Spanish father and Belgian mother, he spent his childhood in the kitchens of his family’s restaurants, alternating between Marbella and Brussels – and learning plenty along the way.

So what do their collective talents translate into for you, the diner? A menu rife with options big and small, savoury and sweet. We start on a light note with nibbles that both whet our appetites and leave us reminiscing about those long, carefree lunches on the sidewalks of Barcelona. First comes the Pan con Tomate, a classic Catalan appetiser that comes with a ritual of its own. In a case of ‘when in Rome’, you’re supposed to rub the toasted bread with a glove of garlic, drizzle some of the freshly grated tomato, and end with a pinch of sea salt for crunch and texture. It paves the
way nicely for the Gazpacho Andaluz, a cold and refreshing tomato soup we’ll welcome when those scorching summer temperatures return. Next, we opt for a salad made a little more substantial with goat cheese, but it’s the contrast of flavours that really adds to its appeal. Not only is the cheese caramelised, but its saltiness is dialled back by the sweetness of the candied fruit scattered throughout.

But if hot tapas is what you’re seeking, we suggest the Berenjenas con Miel y Salmorejo, which pairs slices of fried eggplant with a creamy, ever-so-slightly-sweet
dip. Unsurprisingly, it’s a hit with our vegetarian dining companions. We also order a portion of croquettes. After all, it feels like sacrilege to be seated in a Spanish restaurant without these little breadcrumb-coated bites on the table. And to our delight, Salero does two versions: one with chicken, another with truffle and wild mushrooms. Admittedly, they’re long forgotten when the sizzling Paella de Marisco, or seafood paella, arrives. Cue the collective “oohs” and “ahhs” as we’re greeted by a decadent spread of prawns, cuttlefish, clams, mussels, and more, all tossed in perfectly seasoned bomba rice. It’s times like these we’re glad we live on an island. A word to the wise: the kitchen here has an open-plan layout, so watch the chefs in action as the paella is prepared. It’s cooked over an open fire, the leaping flames theatrically lighting up the surroundings for a split second.

But the feast doesn’t end there. Eager to impress the carnivores amidst us is the Costillas de Vacuno Braseadas, or braised beef ribs served with curled potatoes. We ask Chef Juan the secret behind that melt-in-your-mouth texture. He reveals that the meat is slow-cooked for a whopping 36 hours – or “fine dining, slow cooking” as he calls it. Our chat continues, leading to anecdotes about his childhood in Cádiz. Long before Nutella became a household name – and staple – children in Spain were interrupted from their afternoon adventures with pan con chocolate, a simple snack of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of buttered bread. Healthy? No. Nostalgia-ridden? Definitely yes. At Salero, you’ll dine on a delicious, elevated version called Pa Amb Xocolata. Brioche bread is toasted with a blowtorch then topped with dark chocolate ganache, olive oil, a touch of saffron cream, Ibiza salt flakes, and a sprig of mint – et voilà. An adult take on a childhood favourite. But why stop there? The desserts section also hosts the usual suspects – think: Crema Catalana, Arroz con Leche, Flaó Mallorquín. And we’re not complaining. In fact, we order one of each (in the name of research, of course).

While Salero recently celebrated its soft opening (read: reserve a table stat), the restaurant is currently gearing up for its grand opening in January, and there’s a lot to look forward to. Not only do we spot a DJ booth next to that oversized, brightly coloured mural that screams Spain, but we’re also told to expect performances by flamenco dancers in the near future. However, there’s something intangible about our dining experience that helps us momentarily forget the present circumstances. Yes, our face masks sit patiently beside our cell phones and car keys. but the warm and laidback ambiance of Salero feels like a promise of better days to come – a time of unobstructed smiles, unapologetically loud music, dancing with complete strangers, and bonding over a shared love of tapas. ✤