Espana Restaurant
By Nancy Baye

A Taste of Spain on Denman Street

Growing up in London, England, Edward Perrow travelled to Spain on a number of family vacations throughout his childhood. Those Iberian trips made an indelible impression on Ed, who became enthralled with Spanish culture. “I loved their attitude toward food and wine, the relaxed atmosphere,” he explains. “In Spain, I saw groups of people share plates, eat with their hands, join in the ancient bond of breaking bread together.” Today, Ed has successfully recreated that Spanish feel at his Denman Street Spanish tapas and wine bar, España, starting with the exterior red door. “I painted it myself, before we opened.” he says.

Ed had long wanted to open a Spanish tapas restaurant. After serving as the general manager at the famed Bin 941 and Bin 942 on Davie Street, he moved on to a stint at Uva and Cibo at the Moda Hotel, where he met chef Neil Taylor. The duo earned a lot of press in 2009 when Cibo won a slew of best restaurant awards, and decided to take the opportunity to secure funding for their own venture.

People share plates, eat with their hands, join in the ancient bond of breaking bread together. - Ed Perrow, co-owner
Ed Perrow co-owns the Denman Street Spanish tapas and wine bar along with chef Neil Taylor.
Ed Perrow co-owns the Denman Street Spanish tapas and wine bar along with chef Neil Taylor.

A Good Neighbourhood Restaurant

España opened in the Fall of 2012. Ed and Neil co-own the restaurant, with Ed running the front-of-house operations and the wine program while Neil oversees the kitchen. A third partner, Georgia Goritsas, handles the finances.

Denman Street is notorious for its high rents and short-lived restaurants, and a few West End locals were suspicious when España first opened up on the strip. Ed chuckles as he recalls passers-by scoffing: "A new Denman Street restaurant? Good luck, man."

But with line-ups every night of the week, and a one- to two-hour wait on the weekends, it looks like España doesn't need a whole lot of luck these days. Neighbourhood locals and foodies from across the city are happy to travel to the West End for an authentic Spanish dining experience. “Ultimately, we want to be known as a good neighbourhood restaurant,” Ed says with a smile.

The authentic paella changes daily to highlight fresh, seasonal ingredients.
The authentic seafood paella changes daily to highlight fresh, seasonal ingredients. Photo courtesy of España

Spanish Tapas with Integrity

España's head chef Neil Taylor is known for his integrity with food and his fondness for biodynamic produce. Biodynamic agriculture is similar to organic farming, but with some uniquely esoteric ideas. Soil fertility, plant growth, and care of livestock are seen as ecologically interrelated, as one single system. Spiritual and mystical elements might be used like an astrological calendar for planting and sowing. The practice excludes artificial chemicals, using compost and manure instead, and focuses on local production and distribution systems. Biodynamic food basically takes organic to the next level.

In keeping with the kitchen's freshness philosophy, the Spanish-inspired tapas menu changes weekly, with local providers like Sapo Bravo of Lytton delivering produce directly to the restaurant before hitting the local farmers’ markets. Spring brings fresh asparagus and rhubarb. Summer’s gorgeous tomatoes and onions cry out to become Gazpacho soup. “We’re always excited about what fresh produce is coming next, and the kitchen puts a lot of love into the food,” Ed notes.

España's rotating menu offers seasonal tapas dishes, imported charcuterie and cheeses, and sweet Spanish desserts such as flan and churros paired with dulce de leche. Guests can mix and match a variety of small and large sharing plates that range from smashed peas and fava beans on toast to crispy anchovy-stuffed olives to a signature daily paella.

A Spanish wine bar, Espana's selections continue to surprise and enchant.
A Spanish wine bar, Espana's selections continue to surprise and enchant.
A fresh beet salad highlights local ingredients while incorporating authentic Spanish flavours.
A fresh beet salad highlights local ingredients while incorporating authentic Spanish flavours. Photo courtesy of España

Sherry, Sangria, Cerveza and More

It’s no surprise that España also offers a variety of Spanish beers and wines to enjoy alongside its inspired tapas selections. “I love to pair food and wine,“ Ed says, noting that many of their imported bottles might be unfamiliar to Vancouverites. “I make suggestions based on what a patron likes. It means more work, but it’s more fun.”

Like the food menu, the wine list is constantly in flux, with wine reps quick to share new Spanish selections that range from bubbly cavas to crisp whites and full-bodied reds. Fans of sherry can sample sweet and dry varieties by the glass or in tasting flights; particularly noteworthy is a 30-year-old Pedro Ximenez, which is an intensely sweet dessert sherry that's described as, “Christmas cake in a glass.” Fruity sangria and signature cocktails round out the diverse drink menu.

With his vision of a welcoming neighbourhood restaurant now a reality, España's Ed Perrow can raise a glass of cava in a Spanish expression of victory: "Ole!"

A red door opens to España: a taste of Spain on Denman Street.
A red door opens to España: a taste of Spain on Denman Street.
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