Tucked away on Gemmill Lane is a tapas bar, restaurant and mercado, all-in-one. If you’re wondering what a mercado is, it’s the Spanish word for ‘market’, but at La Pepa, it translates more into a gourmet grocer that retails Spanish jams, preserves, olive oils, vinegars, dried goods like rice and nuts, cured seafood, preserved vegetables – and more.
La Pepa was created by a group of friends from Europe, who share a deep love and affiliation with Spain, and who wanted to showcase the quality and freshness of its produce to diners in Singapore. Everything here has been personally sourced by the owners and chefs at La Pepa, and they’ve subsequently established good relationships with the respective artisanal producers. Below, we’ve compiled a list of noteworthy produce you can find at their mercado corner.
Pedro Ximénez Sherry Vinegar ($18)
This sherry vinegar is made with Pedro Ximénez grapes from Andalusia in Southern Spain, and sun-dried to produce a concentrated sweetness and intense dark colouring. The vinegar is left to mature in oak barrels for at least six months, as per tradition, and the result is a rich and nutty flavour with a subtle sweetness and acidity (no, it tastes nothing like balsamic vinegar). The aroma of this sherry vinegar provides an added nuance to dressings and sauces, making it ideal for a range of dishes, from meats (especially duck) to desserts (pavlova, anyone?) to salads (like the one below!).
At La Pepa, a sherry vinaigrette similar to the Pedro Ximénez sherry vinegar is drizzled over the restaurant’s refreshing salad dish, the Ensalada Pepa ($22). Ingredients in the salad include lettuce, spinach, rocket leaves, heirloom tomatoes, manchego cheese, mohama (cured tuna loin) and almonds, for added texture. It’s also topped with fresh mandarins to provide sweetness and juiciness. The sherry vinaigrette cuts through the briny nature of the mohama perfectly, and this is a dish with components that can be easily substituted – you can use a range of different garden greens, nuts, and pick up the Bellota Iberian Ham (below) from the mercado to use in replacement of the mohama.
Five Peppers Mix ($14.90)
It’s a whole medley of colours in this bottle with green, white, black, pink and Jamaican peppers. Green, black and white peppercorns are obtained from the same plant, but are contrary colours due to differing harvest treatments. The green peppercorn is the unripe version of the black peppercorn, while the white ones are black peppercorns with the skin removed. The pink and Jamaican peppercorns are actually berries, with the former having citrusy notes and the latter tasting like a mix of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. All the peppercorns contribute a different taste profile, and you can crush this mix with a mortar and pestle to be used as seasoning for meats and fishes – we recommend adding it to minced meat for a unique, aromatic taste.
Mojo Ayanto ($10.70)
Originating from the Canary Islands, mojo (sauce) is one of Spain’s most famous exports, and it has even influenced some of the barbecue sauces you’ll find in the American Deep South. Ayanto’s spicy mojo comes from La Palma, one of the Canary Islands, and is made using native harvests like Palmera peppers. After the peppers are sun-dried and pureed, volcanic sea salt from the Atlantic sea is added, along with cumin, paprika, olive oil and more.
At La Pepa, Ayanto’s mojo is paired with a French baby chicken (Pollo al Horno, $22) that has been stuffed with rosemary, lemon and thyme, steamed in a vacuum-sealed bag, then oven-roasted to completion. The chefs have also added grated pear to the mojo sauce, giving it a crisp, natural sweetness. Similarly, you can pair mojo at home with roast meats or fish, but we hear it’s particularly perfect with potatoes.
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota ($42) and Smoked Sardine Loin ($19.60)
Villacastín in Segovia is known for their black Iberian pigs, and it is there that La Prudencia produces their Jamón Ibérico, the finest of which is called the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. The black pigs are bred in freedom, roaming the oak forests along the border of Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns, also known as bellota in Spanish, hence the name. The resulting ham is slightly streaked, a deep pink, and has the aroma of paprika and herbs.
While often paired with wine and cheese due to its complex, savoury flavour, the bellota ham can also be enjoyed on bread (toast and non-toast) that’s lightly brushed with olive oil and garnished with fresh tomatoes.
One of the premium produce also available at La Pepa is smoked sardines in olive oil. The sardines are fished from the Iberian Bay of Cádiz, and have been skinned and de-boned by hand, before being cold smoked using forest wood and preserved in vinegar and olive oil. Cold smoking results in a delicate texture because it does not cook the fish, giving rise to the flesh’s melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
Olive Leaf Tea Infusions ($19.60, a variety of flavours available)
While we’re familiar with the use of olives to produce olive oil, the leaf of the tree is becoming increasingly popular as a health food as well – preliminary research has shown that it contains antioxidant properties that help build up the immune system. At La Pepa, you’ll find a variety of olive leaf tea infusions conveniently packaged into pyramid-shaped tea bags for easy brewing. One of the most interesting flavours is the Olive Leaf, Gunpowder Green Tea and Ginger infusion. Gunpowder tea is an invention that dates back to the Tang Dynasty – it consists of tightly-rolled leaves that resemble gunpowder pellets, and they unfurl in hot water to produce a strong, slightly smoky taste. Other options available include Olive Leaf, Rooibos and Lemon Balm – a calming tea also strong in antioxidants; Olive Leaf, Earl Grey and Blue Flowers; and more.
La Pepa is located at 10 Gemmill Lane, Singapore 069251. Tel: +65 9830 0908