El Fogon: Kyoto City Hall
El Fogon
075-221-5517
Kyoto City Hall / Spanish
Gokomachi Oike-agaru, Kameyacho 380. [on Gokomachi-dori in the first block north of Oike-dori, on the west side]
Open 3pm-3am (rest 5:30-11pm LO). Closed Wednesdays.
Sun: Open Sundays
no smoking: No smoking

El Fogon is a little slice of Spain in downtown Kyoto. Serrano ham, Moorish tiles, and a terracotta floor: it could be somewhere in Andalucia.

The first level is a tapas bar and the range is convincingly Iberian. Ice-cold cava, a sparkling wine, goes particularly well with the tuna, olive and anchovy pate, and the mussels with tomato and onion salsa. The tortilla here is a little potato-heavy but it's saved by aioli and a dusting of paprika. The garlic prawns are a must but the crusty white bread is occasionally spongy, a shame when there is so much good quality olive oil to soak up.

Perennial favourites like gazpacho and garlic mushrooms are available from the a la carte menu upstairs as well as rustic dishes like conejo confitado con fabada, rabbit in bean and proscuitto stew. The house wine, both the red and the white, is a very drinkable Marques de Caceres from Rioja, and is reasonably priced at 4,200 yen a bottle. The Heineken comes straight from an authentic ceramic pump and the sherry is served a la Japon: in a shot glass overflowing into a saucer.

El Fogon captures the essence of tapas minus the prawn shells on the floor. There is a 600 table charge per person upstairs, which includes a small selection of tapas and bread. Tapas ranges from 300 yen to 900 yen, and expect to pay around 4,000 yen per person for dinner upstairs, excluding drinks. Drinks start at 525 yen. There are menus in Japanese, English and Spanish, and the friendly staff are conversant in at least Japanese and English.


by Justin Ellis