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Mar 2, 2011 05:30 PM

Spanish Food Advice Needed

Hi Hounds,
We're looking for a good Spanish restaurant that can accommodate a small(ish) group of people. Has anyone experience the following restaurants? Your advice and comments are appreciated!

1. Club Espanol
2. Tapeo
3. El Gallego

Thanks, Hounds!

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  1. It's kind of hard to recommend a place, because Tapeo is so different from the other two. Atmosphere and budget-wise these places are not in the same league. How did you narrow it down to those three and what is it you are looking for?

    3 Replies
    1. re: SnackHappy

      Hi SnackHappy,
      The restaurant we choose will be the setting for a birthday dinner.Moderately priced food would be ideal, and a great atmosphere would also be ideal. The birthday boy has been eying these three restos for awhile now, so that's how we came up with this list.

      Any thoughts, ideas, or recs, that you can come up with would be fantastic! Thanks!

      1. re: fraisefatale

        Club Espagnol is a huge space and you often see large groups there. Reserve as far ahead as possible, especially for a Friday or Saturday event. Very casual. Food is rustic and tasty, nothing fancy. Stick to tapas (as opposed to main courses, paella, etc.).

        I understand Centro Gallego is very similar and in fact a sister business. Have never been, though.

        For similar food and ambiance with just a bit more panache and more vegetarian options, consider Sala Rosa (downstairs from the Sala Rossa music venue, so noise can be an issue if you dine on the late side). They will do a set menu for a gathering, but I have only had this as a guest, so don't know the ins and outs of setting it up.

        Never been to Tapeo, but there are many reports on this site.

        1. re: fraisefatale

          I've never been to El Centro Gallego, but from what i've heard and read it's pretty much the same sort of place as the other social clubs - Club Espagnol and Sala Rosa. It's very informal, has TV on the walls and hosts Flamenco nights on Fridays.

          Tapeo is a fine dining restaurant with a yuppie/party vibe. It's a fun place with great food and service, but the setting is completely different.

          All three places fit your criteria, so it all comes down to what you're looking for.

          Again, it's hard to compare them. It's like asking whether you should go for steak at Magnan or Queue de Cheval.


          El Centro Gallego

          Club Espagnol de Qu├ębec

      2. Can't speak for El Gallego, I had never heard of it until now. Tapeo has very good food, probably the best, except for Pintxo, which is another animal in itself. However, you get killed (well, let's say severely gouged) by the wine. Club espagnol has ok food at good prices, wine will not kille you, but I would not go outside of terrasse season. I find the inside depressing, it looks like and old 70s restaurants made for groups of 100. However, they have an amazing (and relatively unknown) terrasse.
        So quick rule for me:
        Tapeo, Pintxo, Casa Tapas during inside months
        Taza Flores, Club Espanol during outside season

        Another difference would be to book ahead for Tapeo, especially for groups, they flll up very fast. However, if you reserve in advance enough, they now have a semi closed space with a large table ideal for groups (from memory, i would say of 12-14, but check). Club espagnol, and especially Taza Flores can be booked the same day, or even walked in.

        Casa Tapas
        266 Rue Rachel E, Montreal, QC H2W1E6, CA

        1. Sala Rosa isn't great but isn't bad either... as mentioned stick to tapas. It's very affordable and has the side room that accomodates groups. As for Taza Flores, I find the crowd horribly annoying and food very meh... it's only good for the summer terrasse and even that's a stretch considering looking out onto Parc ave has got to be one of the worst views in Montreal.

          1. For higher end tapas menus, Casa Tapas, Tapeo and Pintxo are all excellent choices; The latter being my favorite. There's also Barroco in Old Mtl which is more of a rustic Basque & Mediterranean inspired fusion menu. I've heard it can be hit or miss, I've only been for oysters and cocktails but would like to return for a full meal. It's heavy on atmosphere- a beautiful room. For a slight veering off course towards contempo Latin fusion, both Madre and Raza are excellent. Personally, I'd avoid the others, different caliber altogether. To those that continue to recommend the restaurant in La Sala Rossa... it's just about the worst Spanish food I've eaten in Montreal and I don't understand why you would go there unless it were before a concert. They're super people, but nothing I've eaten there could be described as more than remotely average and it is not worthy of mention on a foodie forum like Chowhound imo. Atmosphere, non-existant... unless you fancy a meal at your local ymca or community center. I'm quite certain this place would not exist if it weren't for the concert venue upstairs to draw foot traffic and keep it sustainable.

            7 Replies
            1. re: OliverB

              I second Casa Tapas and Pintxo

              Casa Tapas
              266 Rue Rachel E, Montreal, QC H2W1E6, CA

              1. re: OliverB

                I really don't think Barroco, Madre and Raza qualify as Spanish restaurants. Raza and Madre are Latin-fusion as in Latin-America not Spain, and Barroco is Southwestern French with a bit of Italian thrown in.

                I pretty sure what the OP is looking for is old-school Spanish food in a Spanish setting.

                1. re: SnackHappy

                  Well I did say that if he wanted to veer towards Latin Fusion... (Madre/Raza)

                  And I noted that Barroco was Spanish/Med-inspired as well and not traditional Spanish. To be fair, none of these restaurants really serve trad Spanish cuisine. It's all a French-European fusion inspired take in Montreal. I've never eaten a full meal at Barroco though. I might change that this week...

                  1. re: OliverB

                    "It's all a French-European fusion inspired take in Montreal."

                    That might be true of places like Taza Flores or most of the "tapas" places on St-Laurent or in Old Montreal, but it's not the case for Tapeo and Pintxo. They might not be traditional Spanish, but their approach is very much in line with modern Spanish cooking. Pintxo is as good as any pintxo bar I've tried in San Sebastian and Tapeo could hold its own against most modern tapas places in Spain. The techniques they use are the same as what is done in Spain and the dishes feel very Spanish.

                    As for Club Espagnol, it is very much an old-school Spanish place and, from what I can tell, El Gallego is very traditional as well. There are others like Casa Galicia, Villa Espana and El Gitano that serve almost exclusivly old-school Spanish food, but I've never heard anything good about those places.

                2. re: OliverB

                  Sala Rosa certainly isn't haute cuisine/foodie fare, but I think you're being a tad harsh. It's solid, homey, and a notch above two of the three places mentioned by the OP (assuming Gallego is, as I've heard, basically Club Espagnol 2). Or at least it was the last time I was there, roughly a year ago; maybe it has gone downhill, I don't know.

                  And the OP doesn't mention the size of his/her "smallish" group, but with most groups budget and space are huge issues, so IMHO the lower-end, community centre-style places are not inappropriate mentions at all. Depending on the type of people, they might well be more appropriate than foodie places that will run $50+ per person.

                  As for worst Spanish in Montreal, my vote goes to El Gitano on Parc -- with the caveat that my first and last visit was quite a long time ago now.

                  1. re: Mr F

                    I've seriously had the most bland and tasteless food every time I've ordered there, which was all of three times. I sometimes get my meals comped when I host shows there so I can't complain as it hadn't cost me anything... but I certainly would not recommend it to anyone going out of their way for a meal. I'm not suggesting it's the worst restaurant in Montreal, but there's really nothing very good about it, other than the convenience of having a restaurant inside of a concert venue. My ex-girlfriend lived in Spain for a year and she ate a meal there last summer during a show that I was promoting and said it was one of the worst she'd had. You're right it is homecooking and honest and genuine indeed, just not very good. If someone is looking for a night out in the city and has Spanish on their mind, I'd see no reason to recommend it as a destination restaurant. If you're nearby and aren't giving much thought to your meal then fine. But anyone posting on a local forum centered around local dining obviously doesn't fall into that category. I do still think the people that run the place are exceptionally nice, so perhaps I'll just refrain from offering any more when it comes to this, other than to say that it's just nowhere near to even your most average options for Spanish cuisine from my point of view.

                    1. re: OliverB

                      Fair enough. And I'd agree it doesn't live up to my few experiences in Spain, except for one unfortunate tourist-trap visit.

                      But it does also sound like it has gone downhill, because I would not have described it as bland and tasteless.

                      I'll leave it at that, as it seems my experience just isn't recent enough to allow me to give fair comment.

                3. I would take Club Espagnol over Sala Rossa every day as well. But even Club Espagnol isn't great either (comparing to tapas I had all over Spain). I can wholeheartedly recommend Pintxo, but it's in an entirely different league altogether and isn't tapas restaurant in the sense that it's a fine dining establishment were food is also served in small portions.
                  I agree with sweettoothMTL about the depressing interior in Club Espagnol. The terrasse is nice (but be careful during wasp season). Also they don't accept debit or credit (there's an ATM on site).