Great old-fashioned cooking from an old-fashioned Spanish local in north Notting Hill
‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ seems to be the philosophy of Galicia, which has changed little in its many years of serving Spanish food to north Notting Hill. The grudging effort at décor, the rarely smiling (but still efficient and personable) service, the cooking – all emphatically reject food fashion.
The locals clearly like this just as much as I do. On a Saturday lunchtime the place was heaving, with a nicely mixed clientele. Spanish men clustered in the bar that occupies the front room. In the back, the tiny dining room housed young couples, families with little children and a group of elderly gents. A Spanish woman of a certain age greeted the (slightly younger) waiter with ‘Oye, guapo!’ (Rough translation: ‘Hey, handsome!’) For people-watching alone, Galicia is a joy.
The tapas are old-fashioned dishes you will find all over Spain, and not just in the north-western region that gives the restaurant its name. If you’re looking for cutting edge (or ‘hi-my-name-is Pablo’ service), go elsewhere. Come here for excellent renditions of standard dishes such as fried bacalao (salt cod) with tartar sauce, juicy morsels of pollo al ajillo (chicken bathed in garlic-rich olive oil) and perfectly cooked berenjenas (aubergine), glazed with tomato sauce and cheese. Best of all was a textbook version of regional standby pulpo a la gallega: octopus boiled to melting tenderness and seasoned just with extra virgin olive oil, coarse salt and pimentón (paprika).
There is also a long list of à la carte dishes and an astonishingly cheap set lunch menu: three courses for £11.50. The day I was there, set-menu mains included a baked sea bream of impressive size. Wine starts at £14 a bottle, with house red and white at £4 a glass. There is also Estrella beer (from Galicia) and a very good cava at just over £20.
With a glass of house wine, two people can eat a hearty tapas meal for around £30. That’s great value, especially for a place that provides a living connection with London’s past. This area has long had a thriving Iberian community. It’s still here, but time marches on and things change. Except, it would appear, at Galicia.