Metres from Nanluoguxiang’s hordes of tourists is a beautiful vine-covered courtyard with a rock garden waterfall where you can eat by moonlight.
The owners of the new Tapas Café quite rightly decided it would be a waste of a Qing dynasty villa to bastardise it into looking like a Spanish hacienda, so the result is tasty Spanish tapas in a romantic, Chinese setting.
From a variety of starters we sample the spicy garlic prawns (48RMB) and parma ham with honey melon (45RMB).
The generous heap of butterflied prawns, which sizzle in a black pot of garlic and chilli oil, justifies the price, but while the melon is the perfect Mediterranean summer dish of ripe fruit wrapped in wafers of high-quality ham, the portion is slightly measly.
As well as tapas, the Café offers a range of salads and grilled meats. The fresh tuna salad (45RMB), with its lightly grilled tuna slivers served on a bed of salad, quail’s eggs, olives and peppers, is flavoursome and tasty.
The main course of charcoal-grilled beef tenderloin (88RMB) arrives as two large medallions of rosemary-scented meat. Oddly, this seems to be it; sides of French fries or vegetables are optional and undersized.
Leave room, however, for the warm chocolate torte and vanilla ice cream (40RMB), with melted cocoa insides that explode across the plate.
If you’re looking for some negatives then the wine list is too brief, and there’s no Spanish wine or beer.
However, the effort that has gone into its ambiance and menu – and the fact that it’s a great place to take a date on a balmy night – outweighs any real drawbacks. Alice Hutton