Spanish food is my absolute favourite – there’s just no getting away from the fact.
Whether it’s tapas, full dishes, jamon, or even desserts, I love all things Iberian, and not being able to travel overseas has made me miss the genuine article even more than ever.
However, Michelin starred chef Miguel Angel Mayor has opened the new-look Rioja Finnieston, and has brought authentic flavours, ideas and energy to Glasgow.
The reimagined restaurant space, and kitchens have been completely refurbished to create a light-filled, contemporary space that can seat up to 60 guests.
Spread across two floors, the design and interiors are inspired by the unrivalled beauty of Spain’s picturesque coastline, using calming tones such as baby blue, peach, and pastels.
The a la carte menu features a choice of tapas, starters, mains and desserts and will be available for lunch and dinner Monday – Sunday.
To celebrate the opening, Chef Miguel created a unique menu, featuring several dishes which appear on the menu at Rioja, and some just for the occasion.
As a starter, we were brought gazpacho translucido, gilmda, pepino and vermuth, ostra moretum, and rusa de buey de mar.
The gazpacho translucido was what I expected – a clear cold soup, which was presented in a small glass – and was a good start to the evening’s meal.
The rusa de buey de mar was a tasty treat, with crab meat, covered in a delicious foam, giving a feel for the Mediterranean, but with Scottish crab.
It wasn’t the only seafood, as we were given ostra moretum – oysters – in a beautiful green sauce, based on ancient Roman cheese recipe. Beautiful.
The gilda, pepino and vermuth was a mini-cucumber with tasty toppings, including mini pickled onions and seafood. An absolute success.
Our second course was Canape de Pollo Y Pulpo (£9.50), which presented fresh Mediterranean octopus, parsley gel and baby chard, set on a crispy chicken skins.
The chicken skins were a real surprise, as they were cooked to a perfect crisp, allowing for a perfect snap when bitten into. The octopus was wonderfully full of flavour, fabulously fresh, and the subtle chicken flavour, married with seafood, echoed that mix often found in paellas. My companion rated this as their favourite.
This came with tartar de ciervo ahumado (£12), which is home smoked venison tartar, a raw quail egg and radish, topped with tiny tomato sphere in jelly, accompanied by thin crisps pieces of ginger.
I was more than impressed with this dish, especially the ginger thins, which went well with the tartar, which was the first time I’d tried venison like this. I loved it. It was a great mix of Scottish food with the Iberian.
The third course was Melon Cordero, which was created to represent the poor people of the world. This is based on cultures around the world where, when starving, the people cook their meat inside a piece of fruit, and we were presented with a canteloupe melon, packed with lamb.
This may sound like a crazy notion, with the lamb stock being placed inside a hollowed out melon, then directly onto the hob by the chef. The flavour was unusual but pleasantly sweet, and as someone who would rarely, if ever, choose lamb, this was a real delight. My only disappointment was when I accidentally punctured the bottom of the melon, and the last of the meat-fruit broth oozed out onto the salty base, on which the melon was sat.
To finish, we had sanda, sangria, Irn-Bru, chocolate blanco and fresas.
Chef Miguel combined Scotland’s love of Irn-Bru with white chocolate and strawberries, to create a fantastic refreshing mix. These were accompanied by melon soaked in sangria, which brought another little Spanish taste explosion into the mouth.
The regular Rioja menu contains the favourites that you would expect to find at a Spanish restaurant, but with a Scottish slant on them, fusing two cultures which are passionate for their food.
It’s easy to see when Chef Miguel is an award winner. He previously worked at the world-famous El Bulli, and received his first Michelin star in 2017 at Sucede in Valencia, and with a menu like this, he will surely achieve his goal of reviving history through fusion and haute cuisine.
Chef Miguel said: ‘Our food reflects the evolution of taste. Scotland, its people, its produce, and its history have always piqued my interest.
‘Our menu at Rioja links the high quality of Scottish produce to the history of Spanish cuisine. A menu that constantly evolves and has no borders – a one-of-a-kind celebration of food, with flavours that showcase innovative techniques and Spanish gastronomy.’
Rioja Finnieston, 1116 Argyle St, Finnieston, Glasgow, G3 8TD.
0141 357 3277