Much like we collect bags under our sinks, the Sanchez-Igelsias family collect Michelin Stars at their restaurants. And unsurprisingly, Paco Tapas is the owner of one of these. Headed up by illustrious chef Peter Sanchez-Igelsias, Paco is an Andalusian tapas bar which pays homage to his dad's Spanish heritage, located in Bristol's Bathurst Basin.
Paco is the hot Spanish cousin to the sister restaurant and next-door neighbour Casa (previously the infamous Casamia). She's fun, casual, knows her Manchego and is definitely going to give you a sherry-induced migraine.
As with any of the Sanchez-Igelsias restaurants, Paco Tapas has pedigree, which sets expectations to dizzying heights. But this a Michelin-starred powerhouse needn’t flounder, we’d argue they’re serving up some of the best tapas in Bristol.
What's the vibe?
There is a sense of relief in describing a restaurant's décor as something other than Scandi-minimal. Paco is different, with its dark walls, patterned tiles, exposed brick, and sherry barrel tables. The air is filled with the roar of alcohol-fuelled diners and the fragrant smokiness from the grill and you’re a few dangling jamon legs away from believing you're in a tapas bar in Andalucía.
There are also smaller, charming touches. The menus are brown paper, scribbled with handwritten annotations of daily specials. Each table has one of those little metal napkin dispensers you see in Spanish tapas bars. It's not your traditional Michelin star décor, but it’s incredibly charming.
What to eat?
Paco don't mess around when it comes to mastering the tapas classics. Juicy, salty boqeurones, croquetas de jamon, slabs of Manchego drizzled in honey, and an oozing tortilla Española all appear on the menu. Aside from the A-listers, you'd be a fool not to order the signature dish – a quail stuffed with sobrasada and dates. It's called a signature dish for a reason.
For those with less carnivorous tendencies, there are still heaps of vegetarian tapas. A plate of their gigantic gordal olives, smoked almonds, charred leeks and romesco and a dainty tomato salad are all devourable.
Now, onto the home stretch. For pudding, the Pedro Ximénez flan should be firmly on your radar – a delicate set custard doused in syrupy Pedro Ximénez sherry. It is one of those desserts that leaves you re-evaluating the entire reputation of the humble flan.
What to drink?
There is a charming selection of cocktails, wines, and beers, and, unsurprisingly, a hefty list of sherries. In terms of recommendations, the Txakoli Greek rosé was slightly effervescent and wonderfully drinkable, and blood orange spritz is a must order cocktail.
What's the damage?
It comes as no surprise that eating Michelin-starred tapas of this precision and quality comes at a price. With plates spanning £3.75 to £42 and portions being on the small side, expect a bill which sits in the three figures (once you've accommodated the four blood-orange spritz's you don't remember ordering). Nevertheless, paying any less for food of this calibre would be criminal. So, as they say – vamos!
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3, The General, Lower Guinea Street, BS1 6FU; pacotapas.co.uk