Plaza de las Flores,13,30004, Murcia City
Date of Visit: 12/06/2023
Typically, when I think of tapas, I picture myself sat at a chiringuito beach bar, overlooking the Mar Menor or the Med, enjoying small portions of deep fried calamari which I imagine just moments earlier were happily swimming amongst the waves that now break just a few meters from my feet. But I’ve been told my romantic perception is not only wrong but embarrassingly screams ‘tourist’. Apparently for some of the very best tapas you need to head into Murcia City.
And that’s how I find myself stood in the middle of the simply lovely Plaza de La Flores, ironically jostling for space amongst the throng of tourists, posing for Instagram selfies.
It’s a warm day so I select La Tapa from a choice of tapas restaurants, primarily because it has a bar counter outside where I can perch myself upon a stool and watch the world go by and enjoy a cold Caña or two. Both important elements for a full tapas experience.
Despite the tourist setting, I immediately feel like a local – this is what eating tapas is about. A bustling bar in a bustling plaza. Importantly dressed business people grabbing a tapa or two before rushing off to wherever they need to be, and students with backpacks bulging with text books sharing a bite to eat whilst deep in some intellectual conversation. Well maybe. I don’t speak much Spanish, so they could equally be chatting about the Spanish equivalent of Eastenders. Anyhow..
Established in 1927, La Tapa retains its classically authentic décor. There’s a smart looking inside space with white clothed tables. But outside is where it’s at. A bar-counter runs the length of the restaurant with a traditional-looking striped awning providing shade. Flowers creep up the walls cementing it's rightful place in the center of Plaza de las Flores.
I scan the QR code to download the menu. Oh dear. QR codes are neither classic nor authentic. I want to hold something tangible. I want to thumb through a menu, turning pages, not swipe and tap my way through the selection.
But that is the only negative I can find. This is next level tapas with some slightly unexpected international dishes like Japanese dumplings, served alongside the more typical dishes such as patatas bravas, although definitely taken up a good few notches. A must try is Marinero Murciano - a Murcian signature tapa of Russian salad with an anchovy served on top of a U-shaped breadstick. Traditionally eaten without destroying the breadstick. I do. I am a tapa king.
Each dish arrives beautifully presented, but amazingly they taste even better than they look. The gyoza dumplings are delicate, plump pillows of minced pork with a deep rich, perfectly balanced sweet Yakiniku sauce and a sprinkling of spring onion. I hadn't quite finished running my finger across the plate to mop up every last drop when the Boneless Chicken Wings arrive. Sounds simple enough but the tender chicken with it's golden, crispy skin, paired with a salty Hoisin Sauce, transcends to duck level.
The star of my lunch though has to be the patatas bravas. Whole, small roasted potatoes with a liberal sprinkling of salt, topped with a healthy dollop of a smoky, roasted garlic aioli. I’ll never look at a jacket spud with quite the same reverence again.
La Tapa offers amazing food. Price wise the gyoza dumplings cost €8 for 5 pieces, and the patatas bravas were €10.50. It's the perfect place to people watch - just grab a stool outside at the bar counter and lunch like a Spaniard!
If visiting Murcia by car head for the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) where there is a large public underground car park. It’s only about 15 minutes from the motorway, and not difficult to find.
From there head to Plaza de La Flores.