Al Alandus: A slice of Spain in Oxford
The sights, sounds and general buzz makes stepping into Al Alandus like stepping into Spain. I have tried on many occasions to get a table on the ‘off chance’ but have fallen at the first hurdle. This time we took no chances and booked our table online via the Al Alandus website about 4 days before we planned to dine. Anticipation grew as the working week passed, I had no idea what to expect. A past colleague had told me the food was ‘ok’ not too different to the well-known chain restaurant La Tasca; but she did tell me that there was amazing flamenco dancing when she went. I had to go firstly to see if the food really was just ok and secondly on the off chance that there was a flamenco performance.
On arrival we were quickly shown to our tables, the colourful décor and the Spanish background guitar music were a welcome escape from the cold of Little Clarendon Street. We were shown to our table which was adequate; it was clear that Al Alandus follows the same suit as many Spanish tapas bars: fit in as many people as you can. In my opinion this just adds to the atmosphere, we did not feel squashed and the waiters and waitresses effortlessly worked their way around the room without disturbing any coats hung on the backs of the seats. Service was attentive and efficient however, my friend and I were asked by 3 different waitresses within a 7 minute time frame if we were ready to order.
The food is as far removed from that served in La Tasca as is humanly possible. To start, we ordered Olives and Spanish bread with fresh tomato spread, naively we thought this would be a small ‘nibble sized’ portion; how wrong we were, it was enough to feed a small army. Al Alandus is one place you will not leave hungry and the portion sizes far exceed our expectations. Even our jug of sangria seemed bottomless (win!). Eventually we ordered 5 tapas dishes to accompany our bread and olives: Patatas Bravas, Goats Cheese Salad, Meatballs, Calamari and Prawns which authentically served in sizzling garlic oil. Each mouthful was bursting with flavour and brought back fond memories of food eaten on our respective Spanish holidays. Our conversation was transformed to a series of ‘yum’ and ‘which one shall we attack next’?
Just when we thought it could not get any better the Flamenco dancing started! For 3 minutes everyone stopped, both the staff and customers all clapped to the beat of the steps and the music. It was like the food and dancing had created a sense community amongst the diners. The flamenco dancing was the icing of top of an already fantastic evening. Our waitress informed me that they have a flamenco performance during each sitting on a Friday and Saturday night.
Unfortunately my friend and I had eyes bigger than our bellies and did not finish our dishes; we hit a wall and could not manage another morsel of food, not even dessert. The bill came to £50 between us for 7 tapas dishes and 1 large jug of sangria. We both felt that this was very reasonable but agreed that next time we will order less so we can have dessert. I can find fault in Al Alandus and would highly recommend it. I think it is a great restaurant for big parties and couples alike. It’s a great restaurant that’s well worth a visit just make sure you book ahead and remember the portions are larger than expected!
Al-Andalus Tapas Bar
10 Little Clarendon Street
Oxford OX1 2HP
T 01865 516688