PERHAPS we won’t get to Spain this year, so we went searching for a taste of Spain on our doorstep.

The TapasBar in Darlington has renamed itself the TapasCar as, of course, nowadays you have to pull up in the layby opposite and load the food into your car for takeaway.

It offers an eclectic mix of Spanish tapas and Greek meze, plus great big Darlington doorsteps of eggy bread.

We requested an order through a form on the website, sending over a list of numbers from the menu, and we soon got a phone call back, confirming our selection and collection time, and taking payment.

In most tapas bars, the plates are delivered to the tables as and when the chef has finished with them, so you feel as if you are on a constant conveyor belt of food. On Saturday evening, though, the meal was all ready promptly in one go when I arrived in the layby. Collection was easy, and distant, from two large windows which have opened up in the restaurant which fronts on to Bondgate.

Between the four of us, we’d ordered 10 tapas, and this provided plenty of food.

The variety of tapas is a little bewildering for meat-and-two-veg traditionalists: it feels like you are nibbling on a chapter of every book in the library rather than choosing one and eating it through from beginning to end.

Of our 10 plates, there were no disappointments – although one dish caused heated debate and divide across the table.

Our meat dishes were good. Broschetas de carne (£6.50) was two skewers each with four cubes of rump steak that was not unpleasantly chewy yet had just enough give.

By contrast, stifado (£6.50) was a nicely braised beef brisket that fell into shards as the fork approached it.

The Northern Echo:

The star of the show was kleftico (£6.95), slow cooked shoulder of lamb served in a rich white wine, carrots, garlic and oregano sauce.

We also had kotopoulo san Giorgio (£5.50) which was chunks of chicken swimming with bright red pieces of pepper in a vivid yellow tarragon and mustard sauce, which at first I didn’t think really worked.

Our vegetable plates were gigantes (£4.50) and boorekakia (£5.50). They were both great. Gigantes is large Greek lima beans – this is a bean that has a plethora of names but is really just a butter bean – which had been given a powerful, herby taste, while the boorekakia was slices of flimsy aubergine stuffed with feta and topped with tomato and parmesan. Petra, my wife, particularly enjoyed this.

We’d ordered four carbohydrate-related dishes, as well. The chips and dermata patata (potato skins) were both £3 and contained potatoes that were long, brown, deep fried and covered in crystals of salt. It was impossible not to like them.

However, the other dishes were served in either foil or plastic cartons whereas these came in polystyrene containers. The polystyrene did not retain the heat very well, and we were reluctant to put it onto our hot plate for fear of melting.

Plus, it is not recyclable. In a restaurant, all crockery and cutlery is washed and reused; it doesn’t feel right to be adding to landfill when alternatives are available.

We had to have a plate of patatas bravas (£5). Although patatas bravas appears on menus across the continent, it doesn’t yet appear to have become standardised in the way, say, lasagne has. In Spain, we once got a pyramid of thinly sliced potatoes covered in a bright pink, Thousand Island-like spicey liquid; in Darlington, we got some Sunday roast potatoes in a deep red, thick sauce of tomato and bacon with a touch of chilli. Our son, Theo, in particular thought the Anglicised dish was excellent.

Finally we come to the egg and garlic fried bread, described on the menu as “our famous tapas ‘eggy’ bread” (£4).

Wrapped in foil were four large doorsteps of yellowy fried bread.

The four of us were united in not tasting any garlic, and in our inability to put our fingers on which corner of the continent had inspired it, but there the unity ended.

My wife and daughter thought it tasted fishy and refused to go any further that the first mouthful, while Theo quite happily added it to his pile of carbohydrates.

I thought it was lighter and not as stodgy as I expected, and, I thought, a bit bland. But then, in time honoured fashion, I used the fried bread as a sponge for the vivid yellow kotopoulo san Giorgio sauce which I’d dismissed earlier on. Suddenly, the sauce came to life. Whereas before it had been overpowered by the lamb and the beef and the tomatoes and the bacon that were competing for attention on my plate, now it was all alone on the bread I realised it had a delicate creamy taste with a little mustard and a touch of tarragon running through it.

Good stuff.

The bill for four of us came to £50 for an evening of very pleasant food, and if we do get to Spain this summer, we’ll be on the look-out for deep fried eggy bread on the Costa Brava as they cook in Darlington.

TapasCar, The Old Yard, Bondgate, Darlington

Website (for menus and orders):

Closed Monday and Tuesday; Greek Sunday lunch. Delivery service available as well as collection

Food quality: 7

Social Distancing: 10

Logistics: 9

Value for money: 8