I’m a (nearly) 30-year old grumpy man. Thing is, the age is irrelevant because I’ve always been grumpy; from childhood all the way through to the present day. So you can imagine the look on my face when I was asked to go out on a Tuesday evening in Al Garhoud.
A flattering invitation labelling me as an “Influencer” piqued my interest but I’ve had a shitty day in my Tecom office and the last thing I want is to partake in fake pleasantries.
But hang on, this is Dubai’s newest Spanish hotspot and ‘Playbulls’ is (according to the press release) “The Ultimate Gentlemens’ Night”. I am an Hispanophile and a gentle grumpy man so how could I refuse? I’m there.
Espana Restaurant & Bar is located in the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, a favourite with cabin crew due to its 3km proximity to Dubai International Airport. Although only five months since opening, Espana is already proving a great location to unwind, drink and dine following a busy working day, and without that full-on intensity of nearby Irish Village.
The décor is suitably stylish with some subtle nods to Gaudi and Dali. There’s an outside balcony area (please smokers, you should sit here); an exclusive area for private VIP dining, a somewhat camp throne with hands coming out of the wall for the selfie-takers; an ‘upside-down room’ and a general 6,600sqft of imbibing and hanging out space.
There’s also a pink-lit glass cocoon which – on nights such as this – is for women only. “Men aren’t allowed in there, apart from the bar tender, the lucky bastard” said the PR rep during our guided tour.
In truth, none of it is a very masculine space but this is a venue for a discerning gentleman. It’s cocktail- and wine-drinking, rather than beer-swilling; it’s GQ rather than a lad’s mag. Talking of GQ, a man who looks like he’s stepped right out of the very magazine pages is the annoyingly good-looking Director of Espana, Amir Mahtani. He lived in Spain for twenty years and is the driving force behind the venture. Be sure to find him and say ‘Hola’, he has an interesting tale to tell. For example, he’s super-proud of the poseur tables under which you can hook your handbag on the Dali-esque wrought iron framework. So gentlemen, that’s where you hang your man-bag; I guarantee it won’t hold your sports bag though.
My friend and I plonked ourselves down at the curvy yellow and orange bar. And talking of plonk, I was told that they don’t serve Rioja because “it’s difficult to get in this region.” My weekend jaunt to Barracuda and subsequent purchase of six bottles must’ve been a dream in that case. I opted for the Argentinian Malbec but received some pushback from the bartender when I refused to accept the final dregs of an already opened bottle. A virgin mojito was enjoyed by my teetotal companion.
Our new mate, Amir is a generous gentleman and instructed the chef – a big friendly Georgian giant of a man – to bring us some of their soon-to-be-famous Spanish tapas.
Wow! Estupendo! These morsels of wonderful Spanish cuisine delighted my taste buds and filled my manly belly. I may even shortlist this as my Death Row meal. If this is the last meal I taste before I die, I would ascend a far less-grumpy man. Fact.
It’s hard to go wrong with Plato Iberico (AED85) and I enjoyed every single slice of charcuterie. Padron Peppers (AED29) are one of my all-time favourites and here they did not disappoint. The saltiness and tang of the pepper was the perfect compliment to the grape.
The Beetroot and Goat Cheese Croquettes (Croquetas De Queso) were a big hit with my veggie friend and I was equally enamoured with my Croquetas De Pavo. My home-made croquetas are good, but these are the hands-down winners. I know when I am beaten.
For me, however, the star of the show was the Empanadas De Ternera (AED39). A healthy man-sized portion was delivered on a slate with each individual home-made pastry shell nestled in its own greaseproof paper sleeping bag and tied in the middle with string. Tasty, crunchy, well-seasoned, great depth of flavour and beautifully served. Just bloody beefy marvellousness.
Gentlemen … leave your grumpiness at home and get yourselves away from the wife or girlfriend for a couple of hours. It’s impossible to be grumpy at Espana, even I’ll be making this Gentleman’s night a regular in my Dubai diary. Espana por favour!
Review: Nick Stephenson
Overall experience 8/10
Espana hosts Playbulls every Tuesday from 8pm – 12am
Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Al Garhoud, Near Irish Village, Dubai
T: +971 4 228 6771
For Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
@espanadxb / #espanadxb