Date of review: April 16, 2015 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
Launched just last month, the Soho 189 arts complex is Sai Ying Pun’s latest cultural hub, and La Paloma is one of its early F&B tenants, taking over a generous 3,500sq ft of real estate. Named after the Spanish word for pigeon, the design team don’t so much flit around the theme as flap it in your face – the juicy, pop-art colours provide a sharp background for a number of avian accents, from the pigeon-themed prints on the ceiling to the bird figurines. It’s a fun space with the requisite amount of on-trend concrete, wood and steel, and overall it feels like a venue that is best suited to larger groups. A sizeable terrace is available, too.
As La Paloma is a tapas bar and restaurant, you can expect a decent selection of charcuterie and Spanish classics, but the El Willy crew are no strangers to throwing a few curveballs into the fray. Items such as ‘explosive smoked salmon with chipotle cream’ and ‘explosive air baguettes’ are clearly designed so that the staff can explain, with relish, how these dishes might just blow your minds. And unlike many places that value shock value or fancy language over substance, La Paloma delivers – the bite-sized puffed pita-like bread is filled with a lightly spicy chipotle cream that works well with the oily salmon roe and smoked salmon. We’re instructed to eat it in one go, allowing the myriad flavours and textures to, figuratively, explode in the mouth. There are a number of small plates versus larger sharing dishes; the kingfish tiradito has a zingy flavour profile from the green chilli dressing, tempered by a smooth bed of avocado cream. To improve it, we would have wanted more than just the one small sprig of coriander. More rustic are the ‘mama-style’ meatballs, a hearty mixture of pork and beef, resting in a nicely seasoned tomato sauce with cubes of potato. Squid stuffed with lobster sauce sounded intriguing; while the sauce lacked a bit of richness, we liked the presence of golden pine nuts in the stuffing. Desserts are where La Paloma fell slightly short – the ‘bollycao’ (nutella chocolate brioche buns) are a little on the dry side, and an offering of seasonal berries with smoked milk ice cream felt like there was a missing bridge between flavours.
At the time of our visit, La Paloma had not obtained their liquor licence, so customers were encouraged to BYO with no corkage. The promised wine list will offer mainly Spanish bottles, and we are promised reasonable prices, with the cheapest being HK$288 and the most expensive being HK$1,180. There will also be pitchers of sangria, several types of sherry, and signature cocktails.
The team of young staff are suited to their vibrant surroundings – their demeanour is cheerful and keen, and were quite adept at explaining the dishes and making recommendations.
A meal for two without wine will come to around HK$800 (service is not automatically added), which we think is fair value given the quality of the food and the enjoyable experience.