November 21, 2012 Spanish, tapas, Tollcross 1 Comment

MJ’s Verdict
It’s been a while since I’ve contributed (not to mention pull my weight) on Lunchquest. BKR is a hero for letting it slide since life has been a bit hectic as of late with the West Port Book Festival and Book Week Scotland coming up.


Fresh salad.

Nonetheless, in a calm moment of a lunch break, which sadly consisted of a snack bar and coffee, I thought I’d dream of tastier foods and write about this wee place over in Tollcross. El Quijote is a Spanish tapas restaurant that is tiny, but bursting with all the authenticity of the tapas atmosphere and food that can be wrangled out of an Edinburgh location. I stumbled onto it for pre-party dinner and enjoyed it so much that I insisted that B and I and our fellow quester Patrick come along again just a few days later.


Stuffed tomatoes

The place is small. It’s best to book. It is done in an obviously Spanish style with specifically rustic looking crockery and heavy menus. And the menus themselves are filled with a variety of foods that are, generally, split into three sizes: tapa, medium and large. The first is meant to be a taster, the medium and the racione are  meant to be a full meal for one and a sharing dish, respectively.

The first time I went, I opted for the salad and the stuffed peppers. The salad was a particular highlight. The flavours were fresh and light and the peppers were stuffed with various bits and cheesy stuff. The tomatoes that went with the peppers were like nothing I’d had in the UK. They were flavourful!


Venison Stew

The next time I returned with the men in tow, we ordered a huge spread of food and I was glad that I was not going to have to eat my fair share (it’s a secret joy of being the only female at a dinner event, I order huge amounts of food, and taste everyone’s but don’t feel obligated to stuff myself beyond full (not to say that I haven’t been known to do that).

The food comes out as it is prepared, and at El Quijote, they expect you to stay and linger over the excellent selection of Spanish wines. The salad, I ordered again this time around, and again. It was fresh and rather tasty with its artichokes and simple flavours. The Pinchito de Pollo was quite good, four large skewers  that were flavoured with lemon and grilled expertly, while still staying moist on the inside.

The third dish I tried was the Caldereta de Venado, or Venison Stew. The stew has been going for hours, you could tell from the softness of the meat and the melding of the flavours, but this might have taken away from the gameyness. The only thing that made me pause was the serving style, with a large dish of stew, meant to serve several people, I wanted something to soak it up, bread, Spanish rice, something traditional that I could put on my plate to help sop it up. A small portion of this in a bowl, however, would be fine with only a spoon).

Then, we had the big daddy of the meal: the El Quijote which as potatoes, garlic, onions, green and red peppers, chorizo, jamon Serrano and eggs on top. It was served on a big hot plate that made me think of a marriage between a fry up and a plate of fajitas. It was tasty and the depth of the jamon and chorizo really gave the other elements a richer flavour. Not my favourite dish of the night (I’m more a chicken/salad gal), but man, I’d happily traverse the city in a hungover state if I knew that I could get a giant plate of the El Quijote for the morning after.

Book your table, and go taste some of the best Spanish food in the city. And if you want to order in Spanish, all the better, it seems as though all the staff and owners (and lots of the customers) can readily reply.

Blythe’s Verdict
It was a considerably exuberant message I received from MJ, a few weeks ago, proclaiming that El Quijote was “very, very good” and that I must accompany her to the premises at my earliest convenience. With our friend Patrick in town, we seized the opportunity to do so.

Chicken Skewers

The first thing to say is that the place is small, seating maybe twenty, and it seems to be very busy, so booking is a sound idea. We were seated at quite a small table, and left to contemplate the menu.

The menu is in the traditional Spanish style with portion sizes in tapa, media or ration. Miriam was confident on the likely sizes of things, given her recent visit, so advised us accordingly. We took note of her advice, to some extent.


Small, but well organised

She ordered the marinated chicken skewers and the house salad, and looked decidedly pleased with herself. Patrick and I ordered a bundle of stuff to share across the table, with somewhat less elegance. Our helpful waitress made sure we were comfortable with the notion of dishes arriving as and when they were ready, rather than all at once. Aside from anything else, the table wasn’t big enough to hold all the various dishes, if they had arrived simultaneously.

The first items to appear were the salad, some bread and chorizo, a venison stew, and aubergine wrapped prawns. I thought the salad was really good, with a nice array of elements. Sadly, the venison stew wasn’t good, with the meat very dry and the stew very thin. The chorizo was totally forgettable, and the prawns were fine but a bit ordinary.


El Quijote

The next set of dishes were an upgrade, with the chicken skewers probably the standout item of the evening. The speciality of the house, called “El Quijote”, which brought together eggs, chorizo, onions and Serrano ham was unusual, but richly rewarding.

Good espresso rounded out what had been a rather mixed culinary experience.

I think it’s fair to say that Miriam negotiated the menu much better than Patrick and I did, as she had the two best dishes of the night. I liked the “El Quijote”, too, but the rest was quite disappointing. This place has a bit of reputation as a “hidden gem”. I can see why, to an extent, but I don’t think it would be top of my list for a return visit, that is unless I find myself with a particular hankering for olive and artichoke salad and chicken skewers.

MJ scores El Quijote
3.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 14.5/20

Blythe scores El Quijote
3.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 14.5/20

Today’s questers were: MJ, Patrick, Blythe

We ate: king prawns wrapped in aubergine; marinated chicken skewers; tomato, olive and artichoke salad; chorizo; venison stew; “El Quijote”

We drank: water, espresso (3), white rioja, red rioja, diet cola drink

We wore: denim, scarf, navy suit

Total bill: £66.10

El Quijote on Urbanspoon


Written by BKR