We begin falling for de Bellotas even before we’ve taken a seat. It starts at the rusted sign of a pig hanging by the stone fountain and grows as we step into the narrow slice of Spain dining room with hams hanging over the deli case, marble table tops and glowing filament lighting. By the time we’re at our table, we’re in love, or at least, we have an earnest crush on this new Spanish venue.
The porcine theme reigns throughout the charismatic dining room, from a golden pig sculpture to the golden pig earrings worn by the waitstaff to the tagline ‘jamon y vino
’. With this motto, Iberian ham and the well-curated wine list are naturally the stars here, but the rest of the short menu also shines with good ingredients in simple, comfortable, if not dazzling, preparations.
The restaurant’s namesake, Iberico de Bellota
, revered as the finest Iberian ham, is made from free-range pigs that forage in oak forests along the Spanish-Portuguese border. At de Bellotas, the dark red ham (200RMB/60g or 360RMB/120g) is served simply: sliced wafer thin and paired with a plate of pan con tomate
– Spain’s answer to bruschetta. Two less pricey Iberico platters are also offered including a sausage selection (lomo, chorizo
) for 120RMB/60g or 220RMB/120g.
After the ham, the menu continues onto a couple of bocadillos
on fluffy chewy bread, four salads, and a few pages of classic tapas. The spinach salad (42RMB) is a pile of just barely wilted greens warmed by a coating of oily tangy dressing and set off by a border of bright orange segments. Instead of bacon bits, of course, it’s sprinkled with warm crisped Iberico ham bits.
Garlic prawns (52RMB) are fat, firm and covered with golden fried garlic slivers, their oily sauce is as it should be: fragrant enough that we want to dip everything in it, including the corners of our sandwich. A thick hunk of warmed brie on toast (45RMB), a suggestion from the waitstaff, is topped with fresh, slightly chilled tomato all given a sweet lift by a drop of honey.
The spinach tortilla
(50RMB) is a thick egg and potato omelette laced with spinach which oozes slightly when broken into, but as with many tortillas
, it’s bland and more a homey filler than a thrilling bite. The classic patatas bravas
(45RMB) made of chunky, lightly spiced potato wedges served with a separate bowl of mayonnaise and tomato sauce, are a fun greasy snack but the wedges could be a touch crispier.
For accompaniment, the wine list is small but impressive. As with the ham, there are some exclusive offerings – a bottle of Vina el Pison from the Artadi Bodegas estate is 4,470RMB – but most drops are affordable with glasses starting at 45RMB and bottles at 180RMB.A bottle of the fruity, ruby Valdelana Crianza 2008, for example, is a deal at 220RMB and pairs well with the meat and cheese.
With its tucked away España romance, de Bellotas is a clever gem of a dinner date spot – though you’ll need to call early to pin down a seat – it’s already been discovered by a crowd of exceedingly well-heeled Chinese with European tastes and a plate of ham on every table.
De Bellotas is also a charmer on a sunny Saturday afternoon, when the aroma of good coffee and warm tapas wafts through the air and a lunch set of just 55RMB for a sandwich and small salad proves an absolute bargain for an al fresco
table by the fountain, under the sign of the pig.