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Tapas pioneer Jamon Jamon brings home the bacon

Known for jugs of sangria and as a reliable venue for birthday parties, Jamon Jamon remains a pleasurable safe bet for no-frills tapas

31 August, 2017 — By Tom Moggach

Jamon Jamon in Parkway – a key player in the tapas trend

JAMÓN Jamón was an arthouse film that became a surprise smash hit in 1992. Back then, Penélope Cruz was acting in her debut film role – aged just 17 – and tapas was still a relative newcomer on the capital’s restaurant scene.

Fast forward to the present and tapas is as familiar as steak and chips. And there’s a venue in Camden that played a key part.

Jamon Jamon opened in Parkway in Camden in 2001 and now boasts three other branches – in Soho, Islington and Belsize Park.

Their speciality is paella, a classic dish that often disappoints. Even in Spain, it’s often a travesty – ready-made, reheated and betrayed by the ping of the microwave.

Here in Parkway, the paella was surprisingly good: oozy, moreish and with the correct delicate crust to the rice that comes only from slow and careful cooking.

But I’m rushing ahead of myself. To be clear, Jamon Jamon is not a fancy place to eat out. It’s cheap and cheerful, known for jugs of sangria and as a reliable venue for birthday parties.

Looking out of the window, there’s the vintage black and white signage of the old Palmers Pet Store (now a tea shop) opposite, offering monkeys and talking parrots. Inside, this is a long and deep room – you are always likely to get a table. Posters of Rioja wine labels decorate the walls; fresh roses brighten up the tables.

I popped in for supper. The young staff were all from Spain – Cordoba, Madrid and Barcelona – and charming to a fault.

We ordered the paella, of course, which takes around 30-40 minutes to prepare. Five versions are available, including a vegetarian, a black paella with squid ink, and various combos of seafood, pork and chicken.

Portions are for a minimum of two and cost around £10 per head.

The menu includes all the staples (tortilla, chorizo, calamari, patatas bravas…) plus a few more unusual dishes such as dates and nuts wrapped in bacon with a Pedro Ximénez sauce.

Pulpo a la gallega (£7.95) was well presented: slices of octopus neatly arranged on a disk of (rather heavy) mash, with sprigs of dill and dabs of paprika-spiked oil.

The chick pea stew (£6.45) was proper rustic food – simple ingredients transformed into deep, mingled flavours from slow cooking.

The ibérico ham (£7.96), however, was a minor disappointment. Uniform slices suggest it was from the packet, rather than carved from the haunch for each order.

The paella was worth the wait – a mix of seafood and chicken, with plump king prawns and mussels in the shell.

Desserts (all £4.95) include churros, coconut ice cream, a cream caramel and a decent rendition of the Tarta de Santiago, the famous almond cake of the region.

Given the name of this restaurant, it seems odd that ham and charcuterie has a low profile on their menu. But Jamon Jamon still remains a pleasurable safe bet for no-frills tapas.

Jamon Jamon
38 Parkway, NW1
020 7284 0606
www.jamonjamon.uk.com

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