Vancouver’s España: Great Tapas and More. Raising the Bar by English Bay

Neil Taylor (l) and Ed Perrow pull the wraps off what promises to be a West End hotspot, TP photo

What’s the first thing you do (besides laundry) when you get back home after 24-hours of flying? Go out to dinner, of course!

We had just a one night “stopover” in Vancouver between Mendoza and the Okanagan—the perfect opportunity for a quick look at newly opened Espana (1191 Denman St., 604-558-4040).

Espana is right in my hood. And that makes it all the more appealing. Add to that the one-two punch of Neil Taylor (ex-Cibo) and Ed Perrow (also ex-Cibo, and La Brasserie) and I was pretty sure that even a brief, if somewhat jet-lagged visit would still add up to treat, perhaps even more so. In fact, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Smart small plates such as gazpacho and Catalan spinach salad: Terrific tapas

It’s gratifying to see an arrival of such calibre on this stretch of Denman, which, aside from such as stalwarts as Raincity Grill (and the sleek new Cactus Club) has seen a gradual decline in worthwhile dining in recent years, given the onslaught of fast food options that cater mainly to the beach crowd.

Last time we were in this room it was under another name. And decidedly underwhelming, to put it politely. These guys have turned things around on a dime.

Yes, that’s Manuel of Fawlty Towers fame in Jay Senetchko’s mural

The new owners have spared no elbow grease whipping it into shape by themselves. The feel is airy and spacious, thanks to a cream colour scheme that sets off the beautifully crafted Ironwood bar (made by a friend on Pender Island), which runs the length of the room.  Another nice touch is the large mural, drawn entirely in pencil, by another friend, Jay Senetchko, including, among others, “Manuel” of Fawlty Towers fame.

“Well, you couldn’t do a mural for a Spanish restaurant run by two guys from London and not have Manuel,” the artist told Perrow.

A smart transformation …

No open plan here, the kitchen and stores are concealed up a few stairs at the back of the narrow space.

The idea to do a Spanish room has been a dream for some five years now, says Perrow. But things really only came together when he went to work at Cibo and shared his business plan with Taylor.

Unlike in London, says Perrow, there’s been a shortage of good Spanish dining in Vancouver for some time now. He’s also a big fan of Spanish wines, which he feels (and we agree) are under-appreciated. Needless to say, chef Taylor shares his enthusiasm on both counts.

A great combo: duck livers and chorizo, even better with Oloroso

With Taylor in the kitchen (it pays to remember that Cibo was named En Route Magazine’s best new restaurant in Canada 2009) and the highly professional and always affable Perrow out front) this newest West Ender promises to be a potent force.

The flavours are bold, the menu nicely balanced with plenty of authentic as well as inventive tastes; and the wines are intelligently chosen and also well priced.

Even though you could label this a tapas bar–at least in the sense to which any restaurant that operates under our suffocating licensing laws can aspire—Perrow says the plan is to offer larger plates as time goes on, starting shortly with paella

First tastes that impressed: a warm wilted spinach Catalan salad with pine nuts and raisins (that proved a good match for our glass of affordable Armonia Verdejo);  vibrant and zesty garlic toned, brightly flavoured Andalusian gazpacho; perfectly textured, stove top finished onion and potato tortilla; and wonderfully rich sautéed duck livers, with hearty, contrasting rustic chorizo with quail egg on a bed of lentils—seductively matched with a glass of Lustau Don Nuno Olorosso (sherry).

Opening the door to top Spanish tastes …

Elsewhere you can find crispy squid with mint yogurt, grilled scallop with romesco, spiced lamb with baba ghanoush and an array of charcuterie and cheese offerings, with most plates priced on the easy side of $10.

Our advice? Beat the lineups and get in soon. And we’ll likely see you there, as we can’t wait to go back to try more—and further research the sherry list.


By | 2018-01-21T15:05:32+00:00 September 26th, 2012|Belly's Best Bites|2 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.


  1. Phil October 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Living in the West end we would like to eat at Espana but every time we have passed this place during the day the chairs were up on the tables! We thought that it was going to be another West end “mushroom”, popping up one day gone the next (a normal occurrence on Denman) How surprised we were to see a review in one of our local papers. We have been passed this place since it was opened but have never seen “hours of business” posted on the door so how do we know when to go there?? We wonder how many other customers they have lost!

  2. […] España España: duck livers and chorizo on lentils, Tim Pawsey photo […]

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