When we moved to Dublin together a couple of years ago, we lived a stone’s throw from Wexford Street and Camden Street. Just as we got the keys to our first digs together, so too did Anna Cadrera and Vanessa Murphy for a premises on Wexford Street – what would become Dublin’s definitive and destination tapas restaurant Las Tapas de Lola. Delivering the authentic flavours of Spain in unchartered territory south of the Liffey, naturally, we were one of the first diners the night they opened their doors and then became somewhat regulars. So, fitting, that when we were organising a ‘goodbye’ meal with close friends prior to leaving Dublin for London, it had to be celebrated at a restaurant that holds such a special place in our hearts.
Born in Barcelona, Spanish native Anna has lived and worked in Dublin for two decades whilst Vanessa – born, bread and buttered in the Irish capital – has spent just as long making gastronomic pilgrimages to Spain in search of the perfect tapa. Combining their lifelong shared passion for Spanish cuisine and their joint love of Dublin, the dream of running a tapas bar was soon realised and Las Tapas de Lola opened to local fanfare in 2013… and the fanfare hasn’t died down, showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
Where Wexford Street morphs into Camden Street, Anna and Vanessa – who live locally – couldn’t have picked a more perfect spot to set up shop (cleverly ahead of the curve) on what’s now become a bonafide restaurant highway, running from George’s Street all the way to Rathmines. It’s one of the dining hotbeds of the city, ever-blossoming with incredible neighbourhood restaurants, bustling bars and trendy third wave coffee haunts. Lola’s makes this stretch all the richer.
Everything about Las Tapas de Lola sings melodically from the same hymn sheet, Spain-meets-Ireland. It’s neither, nor. It’s somewhere in the middle of the two. It started with Anna and Vanessa coming together and now it’s passed on to the very core of Las Tapas de Lola. They don’t do lunch at all – taking the traditional Spanish siesta to the extreme – however they tirelessly open seven days a week for dinner (5pm ’til 10/11pm), which is somewhat uncommon in Dublin. It’s also not like the traditional table-hopping tapas bars of Barcelona, whilst it’s rare to find a Dublin restaurant with such an expansive street-side terrace – a true sun trap in warmer weather.
A brigade of Spanish chefs man the stoves, recreating the precise flavours, aromas and textures of the various tapa that Vanessa and Anna favour from Spain. The chorizo, spices, morcilla and all those other intrinsic flavours of Spain arrive exclusively from the Iberian peninsula whilst the raw ingredients and fresh produce are sourced locally.
With over 50 dishes on the menu and a dizzying amount of daily-changing specials, it’s always a welcome challenge narrowing down what to order. Really, everything is worth trying once and by the end of your first visit you’ll have already chosen what to order on a return trip!
Puntillitas (deep-fried crispy squid tentacles) or chicharrones (marinated, slow-cooked and flash-fried chunks of pork belly) are a must, washed down with a glass of Cava, as you peruse the menu and form a checklist of dishes to order in your head. We’ve got a few more recommendations…
Albondigas (meatballs in a rich tomato stew), chistorra (skinny, plancha-grilled sausage), carillada de cerdo (pig’s cheeks… nothing more to say, must be tried!), gambas (shell-on plancha-grilled prawns), patatas bravas (cubed potatoes with aioli and brava sauce) and pimientos de Padron (blistered Padron peppers) are just a few of our favourites.
One of the long-term specials, cazuelita de arroz negro (squid ink seafood Paella-type tapa), is also a must-order!
Obviously churros are a sensational end to any meal (and we’ve had them every time, some of the best we’ve ever tried) but there’s other traditional Spanish desserts too including arroz con leche and crema Catalana. Delicioso!
Las Tapas de Lola was born both out of passion and necessity. Anna and Vanessa loved to cook together and entertain at home whilst they craved the small plates culture and Spanish dishes they adored but just weren’t available in Dublin. So, in reality, they’ve just moved their kitchen and dining room from their house to the middle of Wexford Street. The emphasis on entertaining rather than straightforward serving-and-dining-and-departing is crystal clear. It’s all about the convivial atmosphere, the buzz, the warmth of the welcome and the relaxed style and pace of dining. It’s their home from home, but it feels almost like yours too.
Their friends and beloved regulars make up many of the tables on any given evening and you can see why. The warmth these two ladies and their team have shown us personally over the years is second-to-none. Not only feeding us physically (and deliciously) but also feeding the soul by providing such a unique, beautiful and comfortable space to spend time in, sharing great food, wine and company.
They’ve barely ever got a day off, so we always wonder how they find the stamina and drive – something lots of people remark to us about this blog and all it encompasses. What Anna and Vanessa have is heart by the bucketload, passion to boot, a crystal clear vision and incredible attention to detail – a total inspiration to us. Also, they have a pug named Paddy who we simply NEED to meet immediately! 😍
We’ve shared lots of memories with Las Tapas de Lola and, whilst we don’t get to visit every single trip home we take, we try to drop by as often as possible and it never disappoints. It’s taken us so long to share a post with you all on Las Tapas de Lola as we’ve been too busy enjoying every second of their company and their food to try to jot it down into words.