Talking of hidden food gems in Antwerp.
Tio, that is right around the corner for us.
We walk past it practically every day.
On one of the corners of the corners of the Marnixplaats used to be a pasta bar. It never really looked popular so one day we were not surprised to see that it was emptied and closed up.
Handymen, painters and carpenters were giving it a new interior. Kitchen equipment being delivered.
Great, we thought.
What new restaurant would open up here?
We have dinner at right opposite at restaurant Meat and Eat. Owners Mo and Yo Aoulad say: you see right there, that’s going to be our new restaurant called Tio! It is a joint venture with Sumac owner Raphael Helsmoortel.
Tio, a Spanish tapasbar.
However for some reason the words tapas and tapasbar outside of Spain has always kind of run shivers up our spine.
We lived in Spain for about 5 years and traveled around in every mainland Spanish region in search of good local food.
Fair to say that we know a thing or two about Spanish food.
Too often tapas in Belgium are a sorry excuse for sliced chorizo straight from the supermarket around the corner, deep fried potato wedges covered in ketchup, oily heartburn garlic prawns and overpriced low quality bag in a box red wine.
Not at Tio’s.
At least not according their very own description: “Tio stands for homemade Spanish cuisine. Special selection of tapas, grilled food and wines. Catalan tapa bar with Basque & Moorish influence where cava, wine, tapas and music are at the center of the experience.”
And the handwritten menu outside indeed sounds very promising.
We book a table a couple of weeks after Tio opens.
The weather is quite alright so we decide to sit outside.
The waiter brings the menu.
He tells us that 4 sharing plates are enough for 2 people. Anyway we can always order extra afterwards.
Luc the wine connoisseur is happily surprised to find a bottle of godello on the wine list. That is what he chooses once we know what we are ordering.
Looking forward to dinner.
Sardinas con comino
Sardines with cumin, coriander and chermoula.
Grilled in a Josper oven. On the table, 3 large sardines covered in a green herb sauce. The sardines are meaty and flavorful. Well seasoned and that chermoula green sauce is a great match. On the side another sauce, tastes like a Canarian red mojo.
Spiced pulled lamb with smoked aubergine and fresh mint
This one sounded like music to our ears when we saw it on the menu. And it looks beautiful as well. Aubergine puree covered with bits of silky soft lamb, mint and pomegranate.
Texture, flavors, colors: what creation. (€9,50)
Filete de lubina
Sea bass filet with anchovy paprika butter.
The fish is cooked beautifully. It sits on top of a mixture of fresh vegetables such as artichoke, zucchini and cherry tomatoes. What a generous portion! This could easily be a lovely lunch plate. The vegetables are cooked perfectly.
Again, lovely texture and flavors. (€12,50)
Lagrimas de cerdo iberico
Slow cooked fennel and bell pepper lagrimas.
We know that lagrima means tear in Spanish, but what are pork lagrimas?
Turns out that it is the meat that sits between the ribs. Rib meat but without the bones. It is also called rib fingers. And it tastes fantastic. Also because this is not just any type of pork but iberico pork. A Spanish delicacy. The meat is succulent, slow roasted to perfection. It is meaty, fatty and so juicy.
If we weren’t this full at the end of our dinner, we would have ordered another portion of these pork lagrimas. (€11,50)
Terras do Cigarron, Godello
Great choice indeed to accompany our dinner.
Godello is a tad acidic with notes of lemon and grapefruit.
Perfect to wash down the heavenly fatty pork, lamb and sardines. (€24,50)
Would we come back to Tio?
Beautiful ingredients, perfect execution, gorgeous flavors. Creative and not your everyday kind of tapas as well, someone clearly did his homework here. Very decent prices for such quality.