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I’m a self-confessed serial side orderer when it comes to dining out. I love picky foods where I can try a little bit of everything and enjoy the different flavour combinations and textures. Give me all the sides and starters over a main meal any day.
So it might surprise you to hear that this weeks visit to Can Do Cocina, at Trentham Shopping Village, was my first tapas experience.
Tapas, for those who have never tried it, is more a style of dining rather than a type of dish. ‘Tapa’ simply means a small portion of food, allowing you to order several sharing dishes to try a selection on the menu. It’s quite literally a side orderers dream.
Can Do Cocina – which occupies the former David’s Brasserie unit at the Estate – opened in March 2021 during the third lockdown, serving takeaway tapas before allowing diners indoors when restrictions lifted. But it’s certainly not been an easy road for Can Do Catering owners Matt Richardson and Jessica Fogarty, who’s coffee shop at Slater’s Shopping Village, Can Do Coffee, burned down just before Christmas.
Jake and I visited on Thursday evening to take advantage of their 6pm to 8pm happy hour on their Mediterranean cocktails, and the first thing that surprised me was the size of the venue – beautifully decorated with baskets of blooms, mirrors, and cosy orange booths. Jake and I sat at a table set for four, and we’re glad did because we certainly needed the space.
To drink, I ordered a Can Do Sex on the Beach – the restaurants twist on the classic Sex on the Beach – and a strawberry daiquiri, coming in at £10 in the happy hour offer. The drinks list also features a number of Spanish wines, beers and spirits, as well as mocktails and soft drinks.
As first-time tapas diners, our server, Ryan, recommended we order three to four plates each. There was a great mix of meat, vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, and we certainly felt spoiled for choice, setting on:
- Andalusian Chargrilled Flatbread – garlic and chilli
- Andalusian Chargrilled Flatbread – manchego cheese
- Mixed charcuterie board
- Chicken Pinchos
- Patatas aioli
- Paprika cod
Thankfully, there were descriptions of each dish on the menu to save myself, who studied German rather than Spanish, Google translating the entire menu.
Before I’d even taken a sip of my drink, the first dishes had already come out of the kitchen. The service was incredibly fast – anyone would have thought we’d booked a private dining experience.
The flatbreads we ordered cost between £3.95 and £4.20 each, measuring around 30cm by 15cm, well seasoned and the perfect accompaniment to the meat dishes and extra aioli sauce we ordered. That said, we needn’t have ordered it seeing as there was a lot on the patatas aioli (£3), too. The patatas were fried to perfection – move over Poppy Cooks, Can Do Cocina are the masters of potatoes. They were so crisp on the outside with the most satisfying crunch, yet still incredibly fluffy on the inside. Matt, my mum would like your recipe to level up her Sunday roasts, please.
The gluten free chorizo chunks cost £6, and were cooked off in a pan with red wine and honey, giving it a sweet, sticky glaze that was to die for. Meanwhile, the Albondigas beef and pork meatballs came served in a tart home roasted tomato sauce that really switched up the textures and flavours from the rest of the dishes.
The chicken pinchos were chicken breast pieces marinated in paprika and garlic served with paprika yoghurt, which was the plate we cleared first. The flavour was beautiful, and what really stood out was the fact that not a single one of the flavours were overpowering, but each complimented one another. Some restaurants overuse spices or garlic to mask a dish, but Can Do Cocina know how to properly season food, and how to pair those flavours with others.
Jake also ordered the paprika cod, and whilst I don’t eat fish, I tried a small piece and could certainly appreciate the flavours used in the seasoning, and the fact it was well cooked, melting in the mouth. The cod loin was plancha-fried and finished with paprika and garlic, served with plain patatas.
It would be far too difficult to choose a favourite dish from the selection, but the chorizo and patatas were something I could eat over and over and never get bored of. The total for the tapas would have cost just under £50, with the two most expensive dishes being the fish and the charcuterie, at £10 each, which I think is great value for dining out for two people. Being small plates averaging around £5 each, you can certainly tailor your night out to your budget, too.
You can’t dine out at a Spanish themed restaurant and not order churros, so, despite being absolutely full, we ordered the vegetarian churros and chocolate – which cost £5.95 – and they were the best way to end the evening. Sweet, sticky and chewy.