I had exceptionally high hopes for Espana. I've been told it has the best fresh fish in Fernandina, a praise that I questioned given the number of high-end restaurants in Fernandina Beach. That said, I didn't have fish - it is Espana after all - I had paella.
In my younger years I spent some time in Spain, along the Mediterranean Coast and in western Spain. I had the opportunity to eat authentic paella, both in restaurants and prepared by people I stayed with. I've had paella in the U.S., which is usually a huge disappointment, but I had to give it a try at this restaurant.
I'll cut right to the chase. The paella was good, not great. It had no crisp crust, or socarrat, which is, in my opinion, the best part of the dish. It's the part I want in the dish and Spaniards that cook it well will explain to their foreign guests that a well-made paella has this and tender, but not creamy, rice above it. Yes, I am going on about this point, but from a Spanish restaurant that touts its paella I expected it to be cooked to perfection. It was not, especially given we'd arrived early (around 6 pm) so the chefs were not overwhelmed with orders.
Service was very good. Our waiter (and others) were stopping by our table with regularity to keep drinks full and offer advise on dishes. The atmosphere was good, although I little loud (a neighboring table was a little over-indulgent on wine). I also had flan to top off the night that was very well made.
Others at the table did have the fish special and were very pleased. It was fresh and cooked perfectly. Appetizers were good (shrimp for one and chorizo for the other), but again not great. Three of the four had salads which were all very good (garden salads and salad with blue cheese). Wine selection offered us all something to our liking - I think all four of us had different wines and we were all happy with what we received.
In general, Espana is a nice restaurant and I'll give them one more chance to get the paella right. At about $250 for four, dinner should be memorable. Espana came up just short.
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