La Perla

As we were popping to Somerset, to visit family (and to pick up Catherine's food mixer), we decided to get in a quick, early supper, so that we could retire to the sofa as soon as possible.

La Perla is a modern tapas restaurant, opposite The Pavilion Gardens. Well, actually, spreading under the road, with a window opening onto the gardens, as my mother's investigations discovered.

It's a nice setting, in the vaults: wine cellars to the side, kitchen visible to the diner, and with only a few of the dubious interior design features typically associated with the Spanish eatery. Read strange seat covers and odd lighting. Oh, and 5 foot cacti in the toilets.

The menu is contemporary, with a nod to the classics of the genre.

The naughty, fried croquettes of bechamel and ham that one inevitably has on a weekend in Barcelona are there. As is the standard, and equally delicious, plate of Iberian ham and Manchego cheese.

These things excite me more, in situ. Most Tapas bars in Spain specialise in one particular morsel, which they serve with their drinks. So one may nibble delicious salty ham, swilled down with crisp Fino Sherry in one venue, before deciding that some seafood might tickle your tastebuds next, and thus strolling down the street to an establishment which excels in crustaceans.

However, In England this is hardly an option, so Tapas has evolved, and Tapas restaurants must produce a comprehensive list of small dishes.

But this is good.

How many times have you dined out and loved the strong flavours and punchy combinations afforded by your canapes or amuse bouche, only to be underwhelmed by the subsequent offerings?

Many times, I shouldn't wonder.

The truth is, small plates provide an ideal canvas to make food that would be too rich, or too pungent, or too salty to serve in large portions. Less is, indeed more.

Crabmeat with a gently spicy passionfruit chutney was probably the pick of the eight or so dishes we ate (so good that I requested the recipe), but panfried goat cheese with tomato marmalade, and tender lamb with honey and tarragon, amongst others also occupy a happy place in my memory.

As we were being quite quick, we didn't have a dessert. Although, I did glance at the menu, and its rare that I can't be persuaded, so perhaps La Perla has a chink in it's armor after all.

That said, as I write this, on an empty stomach, a berry macaron with sangria sorbet would slip down nicely.

La Perla, 12A N Parade, Bath

N.B. We booked and paid for dinner at La Perla ourselves, and all opinions are our own.