In the middle of the table sat a large, flat pan with bright yellow rice decorated with orange prawns and browned chicken pieces. In blue and white porcelain dishes were an array of colourful and appetising food items.
The reds of the roasted peppers and tomatoes, the greens of the olives and the sunny yellow of the omelettes made it look like a truly Spanish feast.
We were at Gulshan in the house of Toni Balaguer, a Spanish chef who is currently residing at Dhaka because of his wife's job at an INGO. He prepared a delicious lunch for us which consisted of flavourful Spanish dishes.
Toni studied hotel management in Barcelona and has an experience of almost 20 years in the food business. He also owns an enterprise called "Red Fork Consulting".
Before we indulged in the spread, we had a light-hearted chat with Toni about his life and his love for food.
"I studied hotel management in Barcelona, Spain, and I worked hard to get where I am in life today. As a young man, I worked twice as hard as others my age because I was not considered a very bright student. My parents even suggested that I join the military! When people would rest in the evening after a long day of work, I would still be working," he reminisced.
Toni travelled a lot and learned a lot about different cuisines and with time, his love for food kept growing. His wife's work requires the couple and their toddler son need to travel around the world.
He said, "When I started travelling with my wife I realised I could not just stay in a place and do nothing, it just is not in my nature to sit still. I like to be busy and I like to work. It has only been two months since I posted on Facebook about Spanish food, and the response has been overwhelming. Bangladeshis simply adore Spanish food, there should be a Spanish restaurant in Dhaka!"
We began our tasting with some Tapas (appetisers, or finger food). At first, we had the Escalivada served with toasted bread topped with tomatoes and drizzled with extra virgin oil.
Toni explained, "The Escalivada is made with aubergines, red peppers, onions, and garlic – all roasted and mixed with extra virgin olive oil".
This dish can be compared with our begun or aloo bhorta, minus the pungent flavour of mustard oil and the strong presence of green chillies.
The crunch of the toasted bread with the soft vegetables tasted delicious. This one is priced at Tk750.
Then we tasted the Ensaladilla Rusa (Russian salad), which had potatoes, hard-boiled egg, tuna, onions, peas, roasted red peppers, green olives and mayonnaise. This tasted nicely tangy and cost Tk700.
The sautéed prawns (Tk950) were perfectly cooked and had a tantalising spiciness from black pepper.
Toni said, "Spanish food is not spicy but I added black pepper because I figured out how much Bangladeshis like heat in their food!"
The star of the show was the Spanish omelette - made with eggs, fried potatoes and caramelised onions. We had never tasted anything like this.
The potatoes were soft and creamy and the omelette tasted richly of yolks. This one costs Tk850.
The chef shared with us why Spanish food tastes great – fresh vegetables and seafood and of course, extra virgin olive oil.
He shops for the ingredients all by himself because he wants them to be as fresh and as hygienic as possible.
"I buy most of my food from super shops because it is a little difficult to shop at Dhaka's kitchen markets, but still I try sometimes," he said.
We kept on tasting one tasty item after the other – Meatballs with tomato sauce (Tk1,100), Croquettes (Tk200) and Chicken liver pâté (liver paste) with toasted bread (Tk1,200).
The rich, velvety pâté flavoured with bits of herbs was absolutely great.
The fish and chicken paella (Tk1,650) was short-grain rice cooked in fish broth and beautifully garnished with large prawns and chicken pieces. It also contained squid and sea fish.
Paella is one of the best-known Spanish dishes and it is also very popular in other countries. To enhance its flavour, smoked paprika and saffron are often added to it.
The paella was a uniquely flavourful dish. It really cannot be compared with local Bangladeshi rice dishes like biriyani or khichuri because the surf and turf (seafood and meat) combination is rare in our culture.
But it is just as aromatic with the different proteins, herbs and spices. Toni shared with us that paella is best eaten straight from the pan it is cooked and served in.
In Spain, sometimes people gather around the pan and eat from it together, he added.
For dessert, we had sweet and caramelised Flambéed pineapples (Tk700) and Egg flan with cream (Tk700).
The egg flan (we call it egg pudding in Bangladesh) was silky smooth and the caramel on top was delectably sweet. The unsweetened, fluffy whipped cream added a nice touch.
"I do not add sugar to the whipped cream because the egg flan is already very sweet. The unsweetened cream brings out a better taste," Toni said.
The beauty of Spanish food is that it is refreshing and light so that even after eating a lot, you do not feel sickeningly full. It is not spicy or fatty, but still full of flavours and aromas.
Toni takes orders through his Facebook group "Spanish food in Dhaka".
He has two helpers - Rakhi and Sheema - and usually takes three days to deliver orders. If customers want food within less than three days, they will have to inform him beforehand.
Halal options are available.