Spain boasts one of Europe’s most vibrant dining scenes, with more Michelin-starred restaurants than almost any other country on the continent. However, these high standards have not yet translated into a global eating out phenomenon, with relatively few Spanish restaurants around the world when compared to similar culinary superpowers like France and Italy. Luckily, Kyiv can offer an authentic Spanish dining experience thanks to the arrival of La Vaca Tapas, which opened for business one year ago in April 2015. This understated yet stylish venue promises to give guests a taste of the real Spain, with a menu featuring dishes from a variety of Spanish regions made using authentic ingredients imported direct from the Iberian Peninsula.
Located close to Kyiv’s central railway station on Petlyura Street, La Vaca Tapas (literally ‘The Bull’ Tapas Bar) has a modern and unpretentious feel, with an interior dominated by wooden paneling and giant chalkboards promoting popular dishes. Pop art renditions of 1950s Spanish tourism posters add to the retro chic while proclaiming the joys of Pamplona and Seville. Spanish ceramic tiles reminiscent of the kind used for the numbering of individual Spanish residential houses have been employed to decorate parts of the restaurant interior, bringing an added touch of authenticity. Restaurant Director Olga Tolmacheva says the aim was to create ‘a cozy atmosphere where guests can feel at home while both dining and socializing.’
The venue’s menu offers a veritable culinary tour of Spain including a selection of over 25 tapas options. Popular tapas choices include snacks featuring Spanish manchego semi curado cheese made from sheep’s milk, and imported jamon serrano reserva bodega. As arguably the signature dish of Spanish cuisine, jamon is understandably a major feature of the La Vacas Tapas menu and one of the venue’s most popular delicacies. The restaurant even boasts a fully qualified jamon carver trained in the samurai-like art of slicing the meat into wafer thin slices that literally melt in the mouth.
As well as a choice of tapas entrees, guests can start their dining experience with a range of soups. The cocido meat soup is so thick you can literally stand your spoon up in it, while the Castilian tomato soup comes with poached egg and lashings of garlic. With the sizzling Ukrainian summer season now on the horizon, La Vaca Tapas will also soon be introducing cooling gazpacho soup to help Kyiv diners beat the heat.
Main courses include an array of steaks and the mammoth ‘zarzuela’ platter featuring 700g of seafood in tomato sauce. Naturally, there are also a number of paella dishes to choose from including paella de marisco negro, which gains its distinctive black colouring from cuttlefish ink. Among the desserts, the Business Ukraine magazine correspondent responsible for this review was particularly taken by the Crema Catalana – a rich yet light custard-like delight served with apple puree.
The wine card at La Vaca Tapas features some of Spain’s most popular tipples including Jaume Serra Cava sparkling white wine. The venue also makes its own fun and fruity sangria cocktails using Spanish wine combined with spirits and fruits. Lager lovers, meanwhile, can enjoy a cool glass of imported Spanish Estrella beer. For added ambience, every Friday evening guests to the venue are invited to unwind to live Spanish guitar performances.
Prices at La Vaca Tapas are surprisingly democratic, especially given the fact that many items on the menu are imported direct from Spain. The average price per person for a generous dinner is around UAH 350, with some starters available for as little as UAH 30-40.
Lovers of Spanish cuisine will be pleased to learn that La Vaca Tapas also offers a ‘Spanish Store’, allowing visitors to stock up on takeaway treats such as Jamon Curado, Fuet Casaponsa sausage, and Argan Chorizo sausage. Students of Spanish culinary traditions are also welcome to attend weekly travel brunches at the venue. These educational lectures take place at the restaurant every Saturday from around 12:00, offering insight into the cuisine and culture of different Spanish regions.
AT A GLANCE:
La Vaca Tapas
6 Petlyura Street
Open: 11:00–23:00 daily