Restaurant Review: El Molino, N7

Paul Harper enjoys authentic Spanish tapas at a long-running family owned restaurant in Holloway

THE silky passing skills and flawless technical abilities of Barcelona’s midfield dream team of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi has left me mesmerised this season.

And a three course meal at a family run Spanish restaurant had a similarly dazzling effect.

El Molino in Holloway Road proved a match winner.

The intimate venue, which opened in 1987, is dark and musty with Spanish fans decorating the walls and ambient music playing in the background.

It is the exact microcosm of Spain that you hope for without being imposing or lacking authenticity.

The cosy two seat tables and the relaxed atmosphere make it perfect for couples.

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On arrival the waitress insisted we try the cuvi tinto - a mighty 13 per cent fruity red wine, which certainly had the lasting finish promised and became an ideal companion for the evening.

The tapas menu, which includes fish, meat, cold and vegetarian options, is extensive.

My partner was delighted when the gambas al pil-pil prawns in wine and garlic (�6.45) came out sizzling and she described it as tasty, especially for dipping with the complimentary bread.

Her expectations had already been boosted by the freshness of the squid in batter with the calamares a la romana option (�5.10).

Other tapas highlights included the patatas bravas (�3.10) perfectly cut - not chip - potatoes in a rich tomato sauce containing just the right amount of paprika.

The rich and delightful chorizo al vino Spanish sausage in red wine (�4.45) was my favourite – the slender chorizo was superb.

While the restaurant offers idyllic evening dining, the vast array of tapas options mean it could be just the place for an afternoon lunch.

And though we opted for the paella there is a wealth of traditional Spanish mains and options for the less adventurous.

The paella of rice, chicken, pork and a variety of sea food (�24.95), which takes 45 minutes to prepare, was more than enough for two people – and we were given a bag to take home.

I personally found this traditional favourite incredibly filling. My partner relished the fact the shell was kept on the prawns but felt overall the dish lacked saffron and was too wet.

However she was impressed with the Spanish coffee remarking that the licquor 43 content was expertly balanced with the coffee.

El Molino is a friendly, relaxed venue providing an excellent taste and feel of Spain – and you don’t have to break the bank with the prices.

The signature dessert choice of creama Catalan (�3.25) is an absolute dream for people like me with a sweet tooth, offering delightful cream in a glazed sugar top coating.

It was a fitting end to an evening which was almost as good as Messi’s second goal against Madrid in the recent Champions League semi final first leg.