JUST like London buses, you wait years for restaurant openings in Richmond and then two come along at once.

The town was blessed recently by the opening of Barretts in Rosemary Lane – favourably reviewed here a few weeks ago – but almost at the same time Richmond got its first tapas restaurant.

Making unequivocal statements like that is risky, of course. There may, at some point, in the past been some tapas-style dishes on the menu somewhere in the town but I am fairly certain that La Tieta is the first establishment there to devote itself entirely to the increasingly popular Spanish cusine.

Such has been the success of tapas, the concept of lots of modestly-proportioned dishes in place of the usual starter, main and dessert has gone mainstream. It is not uncommon these days to find pubs and cafes offering a series of “small plates” in addition to the standard three-course format.

It’s easy to see why it has taken off. The obvious flexibility aside, tapas gives people, especially when in a large party, the chance to try all sorts of things they wouldn’t necessarily go for on a conventional menu for fear of making a bad and expensive choice and ruining the whole meal.

If the deep fried goat’s testicle or braised pig’s ear turns out to be just a revolting as you suspected it would be, you can always leave it for your braver dining companions and get stuck into the patatas bravas and the 24 other dishes you ordered.

And that, of course, is also the problem with tapas. How do you know that 24 dishes is one – or 12 - too many?

The answer is to be cautious and order more as you go along. Reasonably authentic tapas places will be happy to accommodate this fragmented approach. It is how it works in Madrid or Barcelona and the key to the kitchen delivering it successfully is lots of prep – or no prep at all. Everything is done in advance.

And La Tieta does all that very well. In premises on the first floor previously occupied by the relatively short-lived Richmond Grill and Brasserie (look for the doorway over The Sewing Room and Johnson the Cleaners) there are maybe 30 covers and on the early Thursday evening we called about 20 or so diners.

Decor-wise it doesn’t seem to have been changed much since the Grill days and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Grill and Brasserie was cool and modern without being outright hip and that works for La Tieta. I would suggest they fixed the peeling wallpaper on the stairs however.

Slightly worryingly, as we arrived many of our fellow diners looked as if they were very hungry and there was only one waitress. But what a waitress. Evalina was Polish and although under extreme pressure she coped admirably, dispensing menus, drinks orders and smiling apologies with assured aplomb.

Why is the nationality of the waitress relevant, you may ask? Well, it just seems to be the norm these days – the best hospitality staff tend to be Eastern European. And that is not some thinly veiled post EU-referendum comment either. This column can happily do without politics.

It helped Evalina enormously that as fast as she could take the orders the kitchen sent them back out again in good order, ours arriving within a few minutes.

It was all pretty good – if a little unadventurous, there being a notable absence of testicles, ears trotters, cheeks and other unappreciated porky extremities on the menu. Which is possibly just as well. Trinity Church Square is not La Ramblas (although some might argue that at certain times late on Friday and Saturday nights there are similarities between the centre of Richmond and Barcelona’s famous hotspot).

We loved the chorizo in apple cider (£4.95) – a spicy chorizo in a very creamy and smooth sauce served with a little toasted bread to soak it up. The gambas (prawns) al ajillo (£7.95) were plump and swimming in chilli garlic oil, the albondigas (meatballs - £5.95) were dense and cumin-infused lamb in another well-crafted spicy tomato sauce.

The fried potatoes with aioli were twice-fried crisp goldeness (£3.95) and Sylvia was particularly keen on the stuffed jalapeno peppers (£4.95) – one of those dishes she wouldn’t ordinarily have ordered but was glad I did. Perversely, perhaps, I thought they would have been better for not being deep fried.

The only real disappointment was the hummus with flatbread (£3.95) which was a bland as bland can be. It was as if something was missing. The tahini or garlic perhaps?

Along with a red onion and tomato salad (£2.95) and a £21 bottle of fizz the bill was £55.65. Seven tapas was more than adequate for a main meal for two hungry people.


La Tieta, 2-3 Trinity Church Square, Richmond, DL10 4HY

Tel: 01748 822602

No website.

Facebook: latietarichmond

Open: noon-2pm and 5-10pm

Disabled access: tricky. First floor, no lift.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7 Service 8 Surroundings 7 Value for money 9