I've also been to La Tienda tons and tons of times (its the favorite hangout of my dad and his friends) so whenever we have occasions, we always go there. Like El Cirkulo, I always took La Tienda for granted. I ate there a few times (many years ago) but I never liked the food. A few years ago my Dad took me there and ever since it has become one of my favorite places to go.
The success and great food has to be attributed to the Chef, Javi Lecumberri. Originally from San Sebastian in the North of Spain, he was invited to La Tienda by the owner to be a guest Chef for a month, and it's been 10 years he has never left. Javi makes sure that all ingredients are fresh (which he sometimes personally buys in the markets). His cooking is very simple but if you combine that with top notch ingredients (Virgin Olive oil, fresh fish, etc..) what you get is great food.
We normally always order the same food when we eat there which consists of: Paella de verduras or Paella negra, Besugo al horno, Lapu Lapu a la vizcaina and the Pigs knuckles (crispy pata served in a different way. Aside from that we have the usual pica picas (croquetas, jamon, boquerones, chorizo, etc...)
Last Night we had dinner there with 2 friends, E and E. For appetizers, we had Chistorra (Typical fried chorizo from the north of Spain), a platter of Jamon Serrano, Gulas al Ajillo (an artificial version of the delicacy angulas-baby eel) and croquetas de Pollo. As usual everything was consistently good in quality. For wine we had Marques de Caceres, from Rioja region, which goes perfectly well with all the food we had.
For the main dish, we ordered Paella de Bacalao and Baby Lamb stew. It was my first time to try the Paella de Bacalao and I don't regret it. The paella was as they say in Spanish " en su punto" which means perfectly cooked (not too dry and not too wet). It had red peppers, Artichokes and of course bacalao. I always ask the Chef to use basmati rice in the paella. The long rain and smell of the rice just makes it so tasty and different.
The baby lamb stew was also very tasty and tender. It was my first time to try this dish there and it was surprisingly good. The sauce was a kind of gravy that went very well with the paella. They had ran out of Marques de Caceres so we decided to order Marques de Murrieta Reserva. I have tried this wine in many occasions and is one of my favorites, so it was a no brainer for me to order this wine.
For dessert we had Crema Catalana and and home made almond ice cream. Over all I really recommend this restaurant if you want authentic and simple but quality food. It gets full almost all the time so if you plan to go be there early or make a reservation. Forgot to mention that they also have a trio that sings old Spanish songs...
Please excuse the quality of some of the images - I was using my new Point and shoot camera but after my third shot the battery died on me - so again I had to use my trusty Iphone for some of the shots...