Yet another new opening in Dublin — this time in the space that was once occupied by the short- lived Del Fino restaurant on that busy stretch at the top of Camden Street which includes Frank’s,Delahunt, Pickle, Hang Dai and Mister S. There is an old adage that if you want to have a successful restaurant open beside a busy one — this stretch has about ten.
Cava is from The Porterhouse pub group who also own Dingle Whiskey and this is now their fourth tapas bar in the city — they also own Ibericos in Dundrum, Port House on South William St., and Pintxo in Temple Bar, the latter being most famous for its beautiful loo. While all of these spots can be hit and miss, if you order carefully you can get mostly hits and Cava might be the best of them with an up-beat atmosphere, a lively mix of Cuban and Soul music and a fit out not unlike what you would find in a similar spot in Spain.
We began with marinated spicy olives (€4.50), crusty bread with a garlic dipping sauce (€1.95) and a plate of Padrón Peppers (€5.20). These were all as you would expect and as seems to happen a lot in Dublin there wasn’t the slightest hint of heat from any of the dozen or so Padróns — if Ely, Etto and Uno Mas can get properPadróns, why can’t anyone else?
Things improved with a bowl of Torreznos — crunchy fried pork belly pieces which helped sharpen our appetites and must surely be the perfect bar snack, far more satisfying to this palate than pork scratchings.
Fried pastry Empanadillas (€4.90) filled with pork had a good ratio of crunchy pastry to meat and while chorizo cooked in wine (€8.50) sounded good they did not quite justify their price given the quality of the chorizo.
The great thing about tapas, however, is that nothing lasts long and there is always a new dish on the way. Next up was one of the best tapas of the evening — Calabacin con Chorizo y Queso — Courgettes stuffed with Chorizo and Mahón Cheese in a light crispy batter and served like a burger in mini Ciabatta buns. Grilled Morcilla chunks came topped with a fried Quail’s egg with some sweet Piquillo peppers and were another highlight — the rich sweet black pudding nicely off-set by the peppers and egg.
It’s not tapas if there are noCroquettas and the mixed selection of four (€6) had good crispy exteriors and creamy interiors but the best by far was the traditional Jamon version so I’d stick with that rather than risk the Pollo or Spinach and Cheese versions.
Next up crispy chunks of Patatas Alioli (€4.55) with a pungent garlic sauce and some chunks of lightly battered salt cod (Bacalao Rebozado, €7.95) — a kind of fish and chips Español. Thankfully my Italian dining companion hadordered some Grilled Vegetables with a honey and lemon dressing (Escallavada, €5.95) which was a welcome contrast given that we were rather overloading on fried food at this point.
The wine list is a decent size with a selection covering most of Spain plus some Portugueseoptions. Our bottle of fruity and lightly oaked Viore Toro Crianza had ripe fruits and a kick of spice and was well priced at €34. The list is perhaps a little conservative so don’t expect to find any zero sulphur or orange wines but it does include some aperitivo spritzers, White Port & Tonic and a couple of Vermuts.
We finished with a generous slice of Tarta de Santiago Almond Tart and two well executed Pastels de Natas served warm. The tarts were excellent with appropriately flaky pastry and rich custard and the Almond Tart crumbled nicely — we washed these down with a glass of Niepoort Tawny Port (for the Pastels) and a glass of fragrant honeyed Torres Floralis Moscatel d’Oro to match the tart.
Cava is a solid addition to one of Dublin’s busiest restaurant streets, and while not every tapas worked, the hit rate was over 75% and I will definitely return to try out some of the 60 or so dishes I missed out on.
Dinner for two including a large selection of tapas, a bottle of wine and two glasses of dessert wine cost €124.75
How to Sunday to Thursday, 12pm - 10.30pm; Friday to Saturday: 12pm - 11.30pm
With a decent wine list and a large menu of mostly very tasty tapas, Cava is a great addition to this busy restaurant-filled street.