Tapastastic grub at Escocesa

The clue is in the name. Escocesa is Spanish for Scottish, and this new recruit to Stoke Newington Church Street serves up food from the Western Highlands, tapas-style.

Inspiration for this perhaps obscure combination came to the owner, a Scot called Stephen Lironi, 15 years ago from an article describing how all the best Scottish seafood was exported to Spain, as there was no domestic market for the more unusual catches.

Stepping inside Escocesa, you feel closer to Spain than to Scotland. A metal-topped bar surrounds the busy open kitchen, from where you can perch on a bar stool, sip Spanish wine and watch the chefs prepare your tapas from ice to pan to plate.

The dishes are served as they are in places like Bilbao and San Sebastian in northern Spain – fresh, stylish and modern – rather than the rustic-looking, oily tapas typical further south.

Standout dishes included the langoustines, freshly caught in Scotland and so flavourful they had us sucking the juice from the legs. Three of the crustaceans for £9.50 was more than enough for two people – and the same goes for all main dishes: each costs between £5 and £10, and is plenty for a pair.

Octopus and hand-dived scallops also graced the specials board, which changes daily as per the fresh stock.

The salt cod croquettes were surprisingly good, a far cry from the usual dried up deep fried parcels. These were piping hot, crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside.

If you’re not wild about sea creatures, fear not: the menu offers meat and vegetarian options too – chorizo with lentils, charcuterie board, goats cheese and fig salad.

Another must-try is the morcilla iberica, a moister, more crumbly Spanish take on black pudding. It arrived warm, loaded with sweet and tangy piquillo peppers and a fried quail’s egg.

Artichokes with pimenton and strong garlic aioli added some welcome greenery to complement all the seafood.

The cocktails are delicious and fantastically presented, topped with fresh ginger or fig slices. At £8 a pop they weren’t that pricey for a London restaurant either.

Some of the food was too salty, coming as it did with a liberal pinch of whole flakes, which was sometimes too much even for my salt-loving companion.

But other than that minor point, Escocesa is a dream: fresh, perfectly cooked, juicy seafood, lively atmosphere and prices that don’t make your eyes water.

67 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0AR

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