Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Viva Espana - Horwich

When I was at primary school we had a dragon of a teacher named Mrs Parker; tightly permed grey hair, lined face, perma-nicotine stained fingers and a bark that could quell a doberman at fifty paces. Apart from giving me a fear of short, permed, old ladies the only lasting lesson she impressed on the young me was that Spain was full of matadors eating paella and shouting viva espana, thanks to constant renditions of Eviva Espana whilst we sat cross legged on the hall's parke flooring.

Viva Espana, with thanks to the Bolton News

Opening the doors to Viva Espana in Horwich, the days on the floor of the hall came flooding back; half brick walls with blue paint, Spanish flags and tables finished off with red and yellow paper napkins. Ole!

Viva Espana is primarily a tapas restaurant, the menu split into various headings, for example Carne and Mariscos - we ordered broadly across all sections apart from the breads as these weren't value for money being too highly priced.

Serrano ham

Though the decor of Viva Espana is redolent of the Spain in pastiches and cheap Benidorm bars, the food is properly rustic with hints of real Spain shining through. The Habas Con Morcilla; black pudding with broad beans, onions and herbs was the star dish; warm, peppery and full of body. Similarly good was the slow cooked lamb; spiked with the warm spice of paprika and the meat falling apart in the mouth.

Habas con morcilla

As with all rustic cooking there are well cooked dishes from the heart and those that are clunky and, however well intentioned, uncoordinated. The squid; soft and brilliantly cooked, was covered in an unappetising thick and greasy batter (house special apparently). Mussels; sweet, amazingly cooked - just kissed by the pan, were drowning in a greasy bath of flavourless oil.

Squid rings

We were welcomed warmly to Viva Espana and seated quickly, however throughout the night the service became less apparent and to order another beer took a long time of trying to catch the waiter's eye. As the restaurant is small the atmosphere gets going as the night goes on, we were surrounded by a birthday party and a group of middle-aged ladies on the rose - certainly cheered up our Tuesday!

Viva Espana is pulling away from the plastic sombrero image of tapas restaurants foisted upon us up and down the highstreets of our small towns, nonetheless there is a long way to go until we find ourselves in Huesca and not Horwich.

Total for six tapas plates and two beers -

Food - 6/10
Atmosphere - 7/10
Service - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10

Total 26/40

Go again - maybe for a local, midweek meal on the hoof.

Viva Espana, 12 Winter Hey Lane, Horwich, BL6 7AA - 01204 438235 -

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  1. Nice to see a local tapas place in this country doing a morcilla dish, and with beans too! They often shy away from anything remotely off-piste from the La Tasca mould (sangria/patatas bravas/low-grade chorizo etc). That ham doesn't look up to much though?

  2. It's good to see them moving away from the mould and using 'proper' spanish ingrediants that are cooked really well. There's some bloopers and some 'safe' dishes, but it's small town Horwich and not the city so they have to appeal to all I suppose!

    Ps - the ham wasn't great quality, but it was better than Tesco's!