Located on 2nd Street across from the Piazza at Schmidt’s, Bar Ferdinand draws its name from the bull in The Story of Ferdinand and that inspiration features heavily into the restaurant’s design and cuisine. Scenes of Bullfighting and roses throughout the restaurant and the tapas, like the word itself, are definitively Spanish in origin.
The drinks are nothing if not interesting for their names, but like most cocktail menus at restaurants the options listed are for the ladies. There were some exceptions though and I ordered the Barcelona (Bulleit Bourbon, Licor 43, bitters, brandied cherries) which was just a really well-made Manhattan. I also ordered a Throwback Lager (Victory Brewing) on draft which was refreshing. Holly had the sangria and said it was quite good, but beyond that they did seem to have a large wine selection which makes Bar Ferdinand a great place for the wine and tapas crowd. Currently there is a gin drink in the cocktail line-up that sounds very intriguing as well so if you go, try the Seville (Tanqueray, Pimm’s, fresh muddled blueberries).
Almendras de Marcona
We started off with these lightly roasted marcona almonds. The sea salt and the olive oil made these a great snack while we had our first drinks and waited on food. I’m a sucker for any kind of roasted or spiced nuts at bars.
Plato de Queso & Surtido de Carnes
Two separate small plates that had to be paired together for maximum satisfaction. Charcuterie and cheese boards are one of the main reasons Holly and I go out to restaurants. The cheese plate selections are seasonal, but the meats are always Serrano ham, chorizo, chorizo blanco, and lomo. Both selections came with specific jams, sauces, or spreads to compliment the flavors of the cheeses and meats and most importantly of all they actually gave us the correct amount of bread. One of the greatest disappointments when we go to a restaurant and order charcuterie is that often we only get 4 slices of bread off of a french loaf for an amount of charcuterie that requires double or triple that in an effort to skimp or to nickel and dime customers.
Cerdo Frito – Josh
Consisting of slow fried pork, Mahon cheese, roasted peppers & onions, with whole grain mustard this tapas sized sandwich had a flavor profile very similar to a cuban sandwich. The bread was nice and crispy and the cheese was gooey and the pork had so much flavor.
Queso de Cabra Cocinado – Holly
Baked Caña de Cabra goat cheese, roasted garlic, honey, pinenuts, sage, toasted bread. Unfortunately we lost our notes on this one, but I remember Holly enjoying it at the time.
Dãtiles con Tocino
This was probably the favorite food item for both of us that night. A perfectly fried empanada filled with dates, bacon, cream cheese, honey and almonds. This dish tasted like a rich and hot version of a baklava with some added smokiness from the bacon. All the varying textures and flavors meshed and I would happily revisit Bar Ferdinand just to order some of these delicious empanadas again.
Dessert: Churro con Chocolate
I love churros, but when I say that I’m talking about the really commercialized giant sugary twists that you buy from little trucks in theme parks. This was not that, but was more delicious and quite nice. The plate came with 5 or so perfectly cooked little churros about the length of a finger accompanied by a small dish of chocolate dipping sauce. I’m not normally a big fan of chocolate but it was had great flavor and paired really well with the crispy churros.
Torrija de Manzana
Holly’s desert choice consisted of cider soaked fry bread, cinnamon ice cream and candied orange zest. This type of desert was right up her alley and I really enjoyed the taste I got of it as well. The juicy crispness of the cider-bread was really complimented by the creamy cinnamon flavor of the ice cream with the candied orange zest making a nice edible garnish over the whole dish that added some flavor.
Most theme restaurants leave me with feelings of being in Disney Land, without all of the magic. Bar Ferdinand, however, is a classy take on a theme. The restaurant is distinctly Spanish: from the bar adorned with dried roses reminiscent of those thrown to a successful Matador, to the Moorish-inspired gold leaf ceiling and arched doorways, to the warm golden hues in the tile mosaics on the walls. The design is just right for a place that serves classy tapas, and it made me feel good about spending money on small plates. The design was elevated and refined. So was the food. This is a mistake that so many restaurants make: either the decor is too casual/crazy for the prices, or the decor is so over-designed that it feels out of place. It was refreshing to eat at a place that held in balance the ideas of their food and their decor as a unit, rather than trying to accomplish too many schemes in one small restaurant.
For just over 100 dollars (pre-tip) we got two drinks each, an appetizer, 5 different tapas plates, deserts for each of us and cappuccinos. You could get less and spend as much at Bar Ferdinand but there are lot of tapas options that are nearer to 5 dollars than 10 that let you experience more flavors for less with no loss in quality.
The Overall Experience
Bar Ferdinand had great service, a great look, and great food. The seats were comfortable (gasp!), the lighting was perfect, and although the air conditioning was a little over-zealous, I couldn’t have been happier with the whole package at Ferdinand.
Overall Experience: 5 /5
Will We Visit Again: Yes. While Bar Ferdinand didn’t have the greatest selection of drinks, the skill of the bartenders and the wide and well prepared selection of tapas more than made up for it. The restaurant was pleasant and the service was excellent.