Things have got a lot easier since then (not thanks to low-cost airlines), gradually and a tad slowly standard-quality Spanish products started hitting the supermarket shelves, with slightly higher quality items hitting deli shelves. However, it's all still a bit lacking. Prices for the good stuff are still expensive and delivery charges prohibitive.
A little while ago a company called Grey's Fine Foods contacted me to send me a hamper of their goods to review. From the name to the packaging, to a Spaniard this company screams old British charm.
But inside I found a selection of Spanish products that complemented each other rather well. We had our wedding anniversary coming up so I saved them for a special meal. Here is my opinion (well, and husband's) of each of the items I received:
Wine: López Cristóbal Roble 2012, Ribera del Duero, £11.90 per bottle
I know that outside of Spain wine equates Rioja but there are many other wine producing regions in Spain and Ribera del Duero is one of them. Fresh and light this is the perfect summer wine. It is priced more expensive than I tend to buy wine though, unless the name of that wine is Albariño, it would be a bottle for a special treat.
Villadiego Semi-cured Manchego cheese, £4.25 per 250 g
Milder than husband would like it, this semi-cured was just perfect for me and paired up rather deliciously with the anchovies included in the box.
Cantábrico Anchovies £3.50 per tin
Mr Tapas is a huge anchovy fan, I believe he discovered this love during his first trip to Spain with me but he was a bit disappointed by these. They are juicier and meatier than regular anchovies but about £2.75 more expensive. I reckon I would buy them for a special occasion but I agree they are a bit pricey for normal use.
Montanegra Ibérico Ham 100g / £5.50 per 100 g
This was really good and lasted a few days, you need good crusty bread for this and, if you want a decadent breakfast: good crusty bread slightly toasted drizzled with good extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped garlic, ripe tomatoes sliced open and their juice rubbed over the bread and this ham (preferably with an orange juice, fresh or not from concentrate, and good, non-instant, coffee). Breakfast of Spanish champions.
Fuenroble olive oil £10.95 per 500 ml bottle
Forget about dipping bread in your olive oil, grab a small spoon and taste a few drops. This cold pressed EVOO is strong and peppery, perfect for summer salads.
Martínez Somalo Barbecue Chorizo £4.50 per pack
This was the absolute star of the parcel. We would regularly have this chorizo in our fridge. We used it for, I believe, 3 meals in total so it is really good value for money, as well as much better quality than your standard cooking chorizo that you can get from UK supermarkets. For our Tapas anniversary we fried it in red wine and it went great with…
Querida Carmen Paella £12.50
Although the whole world believes paella to be "the" Spanish dish, it actually comes from just one of the 17 regions of Spain and I didn't grow up in that region. I grew up in the land of fresh seafood though. I had never ever cooked paella and this was a really easy way of doing it. I think next time I would add a bit of white wine when cooking it and definitely add the chorizo while cooking it, after frying it in red wine, it acquired a fabulous depth of taste when mixed with the chorizo and, mainly, its juices. However, with the price it has I would think twice about buying it but I am fully aware that, was I to cook it from scratch with good quality ingredients, it would probably cost a small fortune.
As we ate this Spanish assortment husband and I were chatting about it (with a few interruptions from LittleT). This selection, as it is, is perfect for busy people who want to eat well (and by that I mean what is considered gourmet food), have guests and fancy something easy yet striking that is conducive to a good chat or (in my opinion) a British man who wants to impress a date.
I *may* have noticed that Grey's Fine Foods also does whole legs of ham, husband and I had one at our wedding and you can't imagine how successful it was and with a certain 40th birthday coming up in just over a month…
The best part: they offer free delivery for orders over £50. Also free if you live in North Yorkshire and can collect from them. If you don't live in the UK, feel free to drop them an email to ask how much delivery would be to your chosen location.
Would I buy myself with my hard-earned money from Grey's Fine Foods? Definitely. Their selection of products is rather good, I am a sucker for free delivery and, well, I am Spanish after all. I need a flavour fix here and there (not to mention that chorizo is a staple in this household).
Disclosure: Grey's Fine Foods sent the Tapas family a box full of Spanish goodies free of charge for the purpose of this review. All reviews are 100% honest (and perhaps a tiny bit feisty).