43 Vicar Street, Falkirk, FK1 1LL
I’ve mentioned in previous posts; July is a great month for birthdays. After a couple of interesting meals to celebrate friends getting a year older (21212 and Miros Cantina), we ended the month with a trip through to Falkirk for my bestie Sarah’s fiance’s 26th. It was quite a big occasion, as this will be his last year as a ‘free man’ (next year at this time they’ll probably be on their honeymoon).
Not wanting to let the occasion go unmarked, and knowing how disorganised boys can be, Sarah secretly booked a table for 14 and a high chair at his favourite tapas bar (and possibly the only one in Falkirk); La Banca. I would normally link to their website here, but when I tried to get into it I got a trojan warning from my virus scanner.
We arrived in Falkirk on a sunny Friday afternoon. There was a bit of confusion when we rocked up at the restaurant, as they couldn’t seem to find our booking. It was only when Kenneth went hunting for the toilets that he saw Barry’s family and directed us over to the table. On booking, Sarah had mentioned it was a surprise party and not to mention the size of the table on her arrival. But when she, Barry, and their toddler arrived the maitre d piped up “ah the table for 15?”. Fail.
Aside from that though, the service was top notch.
The menus were pretty standard tapas bar fare. Patatas bravas, fritto misto, chorizo fried in red wine. As the table was so big everyone did their own thing; James and I decided to get 5 dishes and share with each other. We tried to deviate a bit from the usual, so we got Spanish black pudding, Beef and potato stew, chicken croquettes, asparagus with cheese, and patatas bravas because really you just have to. They also did patatas bravas with cheese; but since we were getting cheesy asparagus we stayed traditional.
The staff were very efficient, despite us having such a large party. All of the drinks orders were taken swiftly, with our wine arriving before we’d started eating (unlike at Igg’s where the service was so terrible we were left parched until halfway through our starter) and the food all came out at roughly the same time with very few mix ups.
First up came the asparagus with cheese. This tasted exactly how you would expect it to taste; like asparagus with cheese. I’ve never had this or seen it on a tapas menu before, and it was nice enough as a green side dish to keep some semblance of health on our plate (even if it was a bit greasy from the cheese).
Next of our dishes to arrive (although they all appeared in quick succession so we could eat them all together) were the chicken croquettes. These were crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. They went pretty well with the paprika mayo that they were served with. They weren’t really anything to write home about, though, and the chicken flavour didn’t really stand out.
Our next dish was the tapas bar staple; patatas bravas. We were quite surprised with the size of the portion, although we weren’t complaining. In the tapas bars I’m used to, in Edinburgh usually, the portions are quite small. But here we were given a huge plate of fried potatoes in a light and subtle spicy tomato coating. We polished them off pretty quickly (with some help from other greedy guts at the table!)
The Spanish stew was probably the most individual dish on the menu; but then again, usually in tapas bars I don’t read the menu and I go straight for the chef selection. Anyway the stew was nice and flavoursome with the meat falling apart delicately on the tongue. The gravy had a good flavour and the dish came with some bread to mop it up with. It was nice with the patatas bravas too; although there were some potatoes in the stew already, I do like a carb overload. There were also some olives, which were a nice addition I thought.
Leaving the best til last, the Spanish black pudding dish was both my and James’s favourite. Coincidentally it was also the best presented (unless you count the cute little pot that the stew arrived in). The black pudding was soft, spicy, and yielding and went really well with the caramelised red onions and the little pancake it sat on. It was munched within about 30 seconds. Definitely the star of the performance, even if it was only a cameo.
Most people had ordered too much (eyes bigger than belly syndrome) so by the end of the meal everyone was more open to sharing. I had nipped over to visit Sarah and her little one at the other end of the table, and when I got back there was some chorizo and a big lump of chicken skewer on my plate that someone else couldn’t finish. The great thing about tapas is that it’s considered good manners to share; the bad thing is if you’re stuffed and have to make room for that little bit extra!
Aside from having a website riddled with STDs, La Banca was a pretty good dining experience. Even Sarah and the Birthday Boy’s toddler son had a great time picking away at bits and pieces; turns out small children actually do enjoy tapas and don’t need to be left at home while everyone else gets stuck in.