I HAD big hopes for el Toro, coming as it does with the backing of many glowing reviews and personal recommendations. The expectation made the reality all the more disappointing as the meal turned out to be a bland, uninteresting experience punctuated by poor organisation from the serving staff.
We booked in for 7.30 p.m. on a Saturday evening and arrived in the small, cafe-style setup with one other table already having finished their meals. There was a delay in greeting us at the door as the two waitresses fussed over the table. We were seated beneath the two chalkboard menus, just across from the two chunks of Iberian ham - a fun touch.
Service was slow. We were attended to reasonably quickly in order to ask for water, wine and bread for the table. After that, even with only a couple of other tables populated, we were forgotten for twenty minutes. I had to prompt one of the waitresses and she seemed confused that we had not already placed our order.
We made choices that excited us with some of the less ubiquitous tapas dishes including rabbit Catalan, guinea fowl with chickpeas and bacon, pork belly with honey, and also some ordinary dishes with steak strips with parmesan, prawns with chilli and garlic and grilled aubergine. The first to arrive, after an acceptable wait, was the pork belly. Several minutes later, the guinea fowl and then thereafter the rabbit followed. The prawns a short few minutes afterwards.
Then came the unacceptable part. With four of our six dishes, we went along expecting that the remainder of the food would follow. It didn't. Not for almost half an hour at which point, again with prompting, the waitress asked if we had had our steak strips. I said that neither they nor the aubergine had arrived. She apologised and returned quickly with cold steak strips and cold aubergine.
The food was undeniably bland. None of the flavours stated on the chalkboard came through. The prawns tasted only slightly of the lemon drizzled over them without any essence of chilli or garlic. The guinea fowl was dry and the chickpeas were the highlight of that plate. The pork belly was ordinary with no suggestion of honey flavour. The steak strips were fatty and, as already mentioned, cold. The aubergine, shockingly, was the best dish of the day despite being possibly the least interesting on paper (or chalkboard).
Our waitress apologised afterwards for the disorganisation. She explained that there was a new chef undertaking training and that had caused some problems. Why, I wondered, was a new chef training on a busy Saturday night. A strikingly odd decision by management. I can only assume that said new chef was the reason for my utter disappointment in the food being served as, in stark contrast to the reviewers before, I found nothing to my satisfaction. This was not authentic tapas - this was bland, uninspiring food at a premium price.
The disappointment of this visit is only heightened by the fact that I had been treated on Wednesday to a delicious meal of truly authentic Spanish cuisine by the much-maligned chain La Tasca. That food was far more flavoursome and far more refined than the quite frankly boring fare on offer at el Toro.
At over £40 for six plates with one glass of wine, this is an expensive foray into average tapas. La Mama on Abbeydale Road, another recent venue I have visited, will provide a much more satisfying and enjoyable meal and leave you with an extra note or two in your pocket.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
May 21, 2013
Hi Astraeus I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your meal we take great pride in our reputation & hope you might give us another go in the future. I'd like to address a few of your points:
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All our dishes are created by either our head chef who moved to Spain as a small boy from Columbia with his parents & has travelled & worked at tapas bars the length & breath of the country or the co owner of el toro who works as a consultant delevoment chef for the major supermarkets & teachers tapas cooking at a local cookery school & has also travelled extensively around Spain & the mediterranean basin as part of his job. So to imply our tapas or not authentic is simple wrong.
I'm at a loss to understand why everything tasted bland to you? We source interesting quality ingredients from across Europe develop dishes using the skills of time served professional cooks who have decades of experience in the methods of cooking & it would appear you prefer the tapas that is manufactured in a off site production unit then vac pac & reheated on site at la tasca by "kitchen operatives" which is fine as taste is a subjective sense & part of the fun of food.
And finally everything is priced up on our website & in the window & in the tapas bar & if you phoned up we would have given you an idea of the price of what's on that day. we offer a great value 3 tapas & drink for £12 early bird option & also many of our customers comment on the good value we offer which I believe some have put on trip adviser site as well.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.