The white brick facade and towering neon signage of Hotel Hi Ho create an unintended diversion, with striking aesthetics that may distract passersby from the hidden gem that sits beneath the restored motor inn. 

A few concrete steps will lead curious visitors to the Barcelona Wine Bar, harnessing the warmth of Spanish culture on Fairfield’s Black Rock Turnpike.   

The tapas bar is lit by flickering candles and adorned with rich jewel-toned wallpapers that solidify its romantic atmosphere. 

The bar is lined with cozy high-top tables, their tight placement creating a closeness that fosters intimate conversation. The essence of familiarity aligns with the art of tapas, as the cuisine is intended to be consumed in the presence of loved ones. 

Rafael Ansón, President of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy, expressed that “tapas is a style of eating. It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you pick it up and the way you share the tapas experience.” 

Barcelona Wine Bar boasts an extensive menu, allowing patrons to embark on a choose-your-own-adventure rendition of the standard “tapas experience” described by Ansón. 

The menu showcases 32 items, ranging from plates of roasted vegetables to skewers of seasoned meats. Upon first glance, the list may appear daunting. The options may differ from the options typically available within a Connecticut suburb’s restaurant. Yet, the willingness to expand one’s horizons will be worthwhile. Plus, the friendly waitstaff is prepared to supply recommendations to indecisive patrons. 

On a recent visit, I indulged in a trio of tapas: hummus, a potato tortilla and jamón and manchego croquetas. 

Hummus – $8.50

The hummus, delivered on a wooden platter, was paired with thin crackers reminiscent of matzah bread. The crunchy vessels were ideal for scooping the savory spread, which was topped with piquillo peppers and infused with the aromatic spice blend of za’atar. 

Potato Tortilla – $7

When greeted by the potato tortilla, I was surprised by its appearance. To me, the word “tortilla” renders the image of a quesadilla. Yet, this snack arrived as a stack of thinly sliced potatoes accompanied by a dollop of chive sour cream. Classified as a “Spanish omelet,” the potato tortilla is prepared by gently cooking potatoes, onions and eggs in olive oil. 

Jamón and Manchego Croquetas – $7 

The gooey center and deep-fried golden coating of the jamón and manchego croquetas serve the satisfaction of an elevated comfort food. The smoky ham and zesty Manchego cheese, stirred into a creamy blend, synergize to create an unbeatable flavor profile. 

Admittedly, these choices could be classified as “tame” in comparison to their more daring counterparts. I am not sure if my palette is prepared to handle boquerones (fresh anchovies) or pulpo (cooked octopus). However, once I gain a heightened level of culinary confidence, my tastebuds will be pleasantly surprised by the freshness and flavor that is characteristic of all Barcelona Wine Bar offerings. 

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