Walking into Baresca for the first time is a strange experience. Like one of those dreams in which you know where you are meant to be, but everything is a little bit brighter, shinier and somehow slightly more polished than normal. The new reincarnation of Dogma is reassuringly familiar.
Most of my previous visits to its dimly lit bar were made in an alcohol-induced blur, with music pounding, and only after squeezing through a mass of fellow drinkers.
So, to arrive at the bar, perch ourselves on a comfortable stool (an oxymoron?) and have a chilled glass of Cava in hand within all of two minutes was a new experience.
As our eyes took in the new-look surroundings it was like emerging from a dark cave in to the bright sunlight. The layout of the place remains more or less the same, but with the lights up and the music down you can really appreciate what a fantastic venue it is.
The bar still occupies the same position, only now half of it has been turned in to an open plan kitchen where you can watch dish after dish being lined up on the pass.
The main ground floor area has been filled with tables and the industrial décor has been played up, with exposed brickwork and stylish but understated furniture and fittings.
Chalkboards boast of specials like chicken, lentil and chorizo stew, and fried whitebait, while paper menus adorn the tables, with a huge selection to choose from.
We spent a good few minutes deciding what would be a socially acceptable amount of dishes for two people to order, before opting for what we thought was a conservative three each.
Between us we had the aforementioned stew, halloumi fritters, slow braised pork cheek, mushroom risoni, a panzanella salad and the obligatory tortilla.
Dishes arrived as and when they were ready but it was not long before we had the first plates in front of us. The halloumi fritters looked a bit pale and uninviting but tasted much better. A squeeze of lime lifted the flavour and the garlicky dipping sauce was creamy and moreish.
The panzanella salad was a favourite of ours during a recent trip to Tuscany and this was a pretty good version, zingy and fresh and a good palate cleanser in between dishes.
The stew was a real comfort dish, smoky and warming, with generous chunks of chorizo. I would have liked the lentils slightly more done though.
The risoni, a type of tiny pasta, was creamy and delicate, but didn’t really go with the other dishes we’d ordered – always a danger in tapas restaurants that offer such an eclectic mix of dishes from across the world.
Undoubtedly the dish of the evening was the pork cheek. Slightly more expensive than the other dishes we ordered, at £8.50, it was practically a main course in itself. The meat fell apart and was full of flavour, while the accompanying morcilla sausage was like a tasty black pudding.
The spinach and ham tortilla was the only disappointment. The presentation was beautiful, as with most of the dishes, but it lacked substance. I like my Spanish omelettes with a good helping of potatoes in them, but this was just eggs and lacked any real oomph. I’ve made tastier omelettes at home.
We accompanied the meal with plenty more Cava and rounded the evening off with a gorgeous chocolatey, fudgey, gooey ice-cream sundae for me and a very expensive glass of brandy for my husband, which he declared worth every penny.
Service throughout was very good. We were served by a couple of different waiters, who were friendly and informative, helping us to make menu choices and offering drinks suggestions.
Price-wise it’s not the cheapest tapas you’ll ever eat, but we thought it was good value for money when you took in to account the quality of the food and the surroundings. Most of the dishes we ordered cost between £4 and £5.
Definitely one of the best restaurants I have visited in Nottingham for a while.