Paella Marinera

España Restaurant & Tapas

I picked España Restaurant & Tapas for our first dinner on Amelia Island. This highly-regarded local favorite opened in 2004 and is located at 22 S 4th Street in the heart of the Fernandina Beach downtown historic district. The restaurant specializes in Spanish and Portuguese dishes. The menu has an interesting mix of hot and cold tapas. Their signature dishes are traditional paellas. Almost of the the reviews rated both the food and ambiance as exceptional.

Reservations are through Resy. It was pretty booked so we were not able to get a table until 7:45 pm which is a late dinner for us. Parking in downtown Fernandina Beach can be challenging, but we got lucky and found a space right in front of the restaurant.

They have both inside and outside seating. The patio is supposed to be pretty cool. Since it has been so warm, I requested a table inside. They had a nice deuce ready when we arrived. The tables are small for this type of food and the room is pretty dark as you can see in our pic below.

We hadn’t had a good sangria in a while, so we ordered a half pitcher. It is made in a traditional style. It was well prepared, but we both thought it could have used a bit more “oomph”.

They have an interesting mix of tapas. We decided to try on of the pintxos which are served on crostini. We ordered the Cerdo and Higos. These have fig jam, goat cheese, Serrano ham, and a balsamic fig glaze. It was a very flavorful “bite”, but you almost have to cut them. The ham is hard to bite through. The bread was good, but toasted a little too much.

I had seen lots of rave review about the paellas. They serve seafood, chicken, and meat variations. They cook them in a traditional Paella pan which is a shallow flat pan with two handles. The preparation is also very traditional. They start with extra virgin olive oil, saffron and a “sofrito”, which is the combination of garlic, onion, peppers and tomato. Next, they add the seasoned proteins, homemade stock and rice which are cooked together until the rice soaks up the delicate flavors of the stock. Once the rice is cooked, they garnish the paella with diced roasted peppers, English peas and fresh cilantro. Teresa had mentioned having one several times over the past few months, so it seemed like a great choice.

We ordered the Paella Marinera which is the seafood one. This is made with clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, and fresh fish. They normally make it for four, but you can order for two which we did. It was still a pretty big dish when it came.

All of the seafood in the dish was very fresh and well cooked. The scallops were small and we didn’t have much calamari. This would have been ok, but most of the dish was really under-seasoned. It was also pretty dry. We did find one small section with better seasoning near the end, but overall the dish “was disappointing”just ok.” The flavors just were not there.

I found out later this was the first night they reopened after their summer vacation. It was busy. Maybe that was why the main dish preparation fell short. While we can not recommend it based on our visit, it is probably worth consideration if you are visiting Amelia based on how positive their reviews generally are.

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