This blog is but a couple of months old and I have already lamented the lack of decent places to eat in Dartford and in my opinion I am quite justified in doing so. A glimmer of hope comes in the form of the twinkly lights outside of Carnival. Unassumingly situated on Spital Street, opposite the Royal Oak pub (which is now doing a roaring trade on delicious looking Sunday lunches) and next to the bookies it is not really where you would expect to find a Tapas restaurant; especially not one serving food as good as they are here. It is a delight and a welcome addition to the town. I can only hope more will follow!
There were three of us dining on this occasion, celebrating my beloved brother’s birthday and what a feast we had. We dined on a Thursday and didn’t book, when we got there at 7pm there were just a couple of tables occupied but it was a pleasure that as the night went on it really filled up – surely a testament to their growing popularity! As it fills up it does get quite noisy, I find it a bit too much when you go on a weekend as it is just too loud for me alongside music, but on weekdays it’s that bit more chilled. It’s not really their fault just the acoustics of the venue are not great!
Carnival has a fantastic cocktail menu and I highly recommend that you give them a try. I love a classic martini and the couple that I had here were perfection; dry, with a twist and ice cold! The men ordered a Rioja which was so good we ended up having two bottles during the duration of the meal and why not?! We were celebrating!
We ordered some bread and olives to start which were both surprisingly wonderful when they arrived. Olives were green and plump with the stones removed (always a help) and the bread was fresh and crusty, served with a lovely garlicky sauce.
The menu is a mixture of tapas dishes and then a selection of main dishes as well. We just went for tapas and ordered rather a lot of them!
First out was the rather splendid flaming chorizo and it carried on flaming for rather a while! A great quality of sausage that has a lovely, slightly charred taste, adding to the depth of its smokiness. It was great with a bit of the calamari.
Calamari were small morsels of squid, lovely and crunchy with no nasty chewiness you can sometimes get. You know you are in safe hands when chef can cook calamari properly. The garlic aioli served alongside it was also really good and had a real punch to it!
Croquettes – ahh the croquettes! Spanish croquettes are probably one of my most favourite things to eat in the world. When they are properly made with béchamel, jamón and maybe a slight hint of cheese they are a complete joy. I have ordered them here before and loved them so much I ordered two portions (my gluttony I admit to within this blog is the reason I have to spend the rest of my time on a diet). However on this visit they just didn’t taste right – there was a strange sweetness to them that I couldn’t place and it’s a shame but I am assuming that it is just a blip and that next time I go they will be back to their best.
Patatas Bravas is pretty hard to get wrong and these were as good as any I’ve had. Nice crisp potato cubes, smoky tomato sauce with a generous helping of aioli (also really rather good with the chorizo).
Prawns looked a little pale for my liking (I have a real thing about that) and I am always more keen for a shell on variant. Despite this they tasted great and had a good kick of chilli and garlic – Mr A loved them!
Grilled whole sardines are not to everyone’s tastes, the bones can be fiddly but my brother and I are both fans and were not disappointed! the skin was nicely crisp and the flavours they had been cooked in complimented the flavour of the fish really well.
Two other dishes were ordered – pork cheeks and blood sausage. I tried the pork cheeks that were served with mashed potato and a very savoury sauce. They were really rather pleasant and the texture of the meat was so tender it fell apart on the fork. I didn’t try the blood sausage as I am a wimp but my brother said it was very enjoyable.
You would think after all this food we would be too full for dessert but technically this is where I will always be an Arding and never an Anderson – there is always room for Pudding. My brother devoured a yummy looking sticky toffee pudding and I ordered the cheese board. The crackers were about as authentically Spanish as Jacobs crackers are but the selection of Spanish cheeses with the quince paste were so good and a perfect pairing for the wine.
The bill came to £140.00, which is not cheap for 3 people, but did include two bottles of wine and two cocktails and I think it was well worth it for the quality of the food and the thoroughly nice evening we all had. Special mention as well to the great staff who are friendly and knowledgeable without being overbearing. Keep doing what you are doing Carnival!
Carnival, 70 Spital Street, Dartford