one of the many tapas options available to us

I was lucky enough to go to Barcelona for work recently (oh, I know…HOW tragic), and so with this came the inevitable sampling of various tapas, from the classic patatas bravas, and manchego on toast, to the less frequently spotted stuffed mussels and deep fried cheese. Of course, this was frequently accompanied by the famed Iberico ham, and lashings of sangria, and all at competitive prices to lure in the unsuspecting yet willing tourists. Given the location in a tourist area, and the subsequent English-speaking waiters, I suspect you’d have to head a heck of a lot further south for a truly authentic tapas experience.

But this is not to say that I did not have a good time, or enjoy tapas any less as a result. So hence this Saturday, when my husband and I stopped off at a hotel at La Défense after an afternoon of exhibitions and shopping for a drink and snack, I said yes to his suggestion of tapas (even though deep down I suspect I’d gone in with cake in mind). Tapas is reliable. It’s convenient, bite-sized, and usually tastes good, waking you up with a range of exotic flavours.

We have visited the Sofitel at La Défense at tea-time on several occasions and always been happy with our experience. As a primarily business venue, it’s normally very quiet at the weekend, meaning that staff are able to be extremely attentive, and that service is politer and more discreet than just about anywhere else we’ve been to in Paris. This Saturday was no exception, and we were able to take our seats in our favourite corner –  surrounded by books, looked down upon by subtle lighting and accompanied by low-volume mood music in the background.

Sofitel offer the usual range of overpriced sodas and cocktails, but we went for the freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices instead (which, in fairness, are not cheap either, at €11.50 each). The tapas itself was better value, at €10 for a generous sharing plate. We were also brought chilled water at no extra charge and were offered plates as well as napkins.

When the sharing plate arrived, we were impressed as always with the presentation. Typically, too, the term ‘tapas’ was used loosely, with an international twist put on the traditional Spanish dish, but this was a delight rather than a disappointment. What you can see in the photograph is 4 spring rolls, 4 deep-fried prawn drumsticks, and 4 smoked salmon blinis, served on a bed of salad. On the side were a bowl each of soy dipping sauce and sweet chilli sauce (and frankly, I would eat the latter with a spoon if I could, so perhaps that tells you just how nice it was…or just how much I love sweet chilli).

All of this, accompanied with a book on Tuscan cookery borrowed from the bookshelves that encircled us, made for a perfect bit of relaxing downtime after elbowing through the crowds at the Canaletto exhibition at the Musée Jacquemart-André.

The price of this peace was arguably less relaxing at €33 for all of the above – but had we been in time for their happy hour, this price would have been slashed by half, making access to one of the few oases of calm in the Paris area even better value for money.

Sofitel Paris La Défense, 33 Voie des Sculpteurs , 92800 Puteaux, France

(+33)1/47 76 44 43