Rodell's 'World Tapas' restaurant, Watford

‘World tapas’ is not a phrase that fills me with joy, so when I read up a little bit about Rodell’s in Watford - a little neighbourhood restaurant that I keep hearing good things about – I was more than a little trepidatious at the frequent appearance of the words.

But after visiting Rodells I can safely say that the phrase is simply a way to try and put into simple terms a restaurant that really isn’t like any other around. With a menu that is selected daily from a catalogue of around 170 small dishes dreamt up by the well-travelled owner and chef Mario Tavares, this isn’t your average restaurant.

The menu jumps between Thai, African, Malaysian, French, American, British and Spanish inspired dishes – with recipes gathered from the chef’s travels, and famous restaurants such as Momofuku in New York given name checks - it’s eclectic to the say the least.

If this all sounds like a bit of a mess, the culinary ramblings of a mad man so-to-speak, then you’re not far wrong as it kind of is – but amazingly, it works. What is it they say about the fine line between madness and genius?

We ordered everything at once but expected dishes to arrive in drips and drabs. In fact everything arrived in very quick succession but was quiet obviously just cooked and hadn’t been kept warm – no mean feat for a small kitchen churning out eight or so different dishes.

The slow cooked pork shoulder with kimchi and rice was simple and well executed, a real comfort food dish that had an honesty to it. A lesser chef would have been tempted to tart this up rather than letting the tender slow cooked pork shine on its own, spiked to the diner’s taste with punchy fermented cabbage and chilli.

The ‘mac and cheese sushi’ is a strange name for a fairly strange dish. Essentially these are little pucks of mac and cheese that have been toasted to give a crisp outer shell that yields to a gooey, flavoursome middle. The dollops of ketchup were frustrating for me as I don’t really like the stuff, though others might disagree.

Fat prawns in chorizo, garlic and olive oil were beautifully cooked, tender and sweet. A classic tapas dish that is best accompanied by plenty of bread to mop up them precious juices.

Octopus balls were tasty and crisp, though I would have liked a little more octopus to sink my teeth in to.

The Bao style pork buns were delicious and a real highlight. Soft, milky, light yet chewy buns filled with tender meet (salt beef and pork), sweet and sticky sauce and fresh aromatic veggies – a perfect couple of mouthfuls and I could have easily eaten them all over again.

The curry we ordered though was a little bit of a let down for me. Falling somewhere between a Malaysian, Thai and Indian style curry it was a bit unfocussed and reminded me a little bit of a boxing day leftovers curry. It was tasty and perfectly decent, but compared to other dishes it wasn’t one I would order again.

One dish that I would order over and over again though was the skirt steak with French fries and peppercorn sauce. Wow. Perfectly charred yet meltingly tender thanks to the rare cooking, this is a steak that oozes it’s juices in a primitive, primordial way when you bite down. You’re not asked how you’d like it cooking because there is only way to eat this cut – rare, bloody, and charred. And if that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing then I’m afraid we can’t be friends anymore.

The chips were equally fantastic. Super, super thin and ridiculously crisp - they were light and salty with an even snap from the first to last bite. True bistro style French fries at last!

We drank Estrella and Prosecco (both on tap), though I would have liked to have seen something a little more interesting and local being served beer-wise. Though speaking to the owner afterwards it sounds like this is something he is keen to do, so watch this space...

 

 

Rodell's, Watford

http://www.itsrodells.com/

 

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