Thursday, 3 February 2011

Salt House Tapas - Liverpool

As readers will be aware I have reservations about tapas (see Charango post), but Salt House Tapas is approximately 45 seconds walk from The Q's house and with a four week old baby in tow we needed somewhere close to whet the baby's head. As Salt House is the new boy on Liverpool's restaurant scene and part of the ever-expanding Liverpool One complex I was also intrigued to see what they had to offer.

Salt House Tapas is located in the Salt House, a lovely old building on Hanover Street (just opposite John Lewis) - a great place for popping in during or after a tiring day of shopping. The restaurant is decked out in light woods, sage paint and specials above the open faced kitchen - with an almost canteen feel about it. There are interesting spanish touches like cutlery in pimento tins, giving that relaxed spanish feel.

Interior of Salt House Tapas, Liverpool

Arriving at 1pm Salt House Tapas was a little empty, but we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes by the manager. As we had brought a pram we were told to pick any table we fancied rather than our reserved one and the staff went out of their way to move things around, put the blinds down so the sun didn't effect Baby Q and generally made us feel very special (again, take note Vermillion). A very different reception than to many other places when you take a baby in.

Everyone chose the lunch menu - a steal at £8.95 for three generous sized plates plus a big plate of the chewiest, freshest homemade sourdough served with good quality oil and balsamic. Being a contrary one, plus having been seduced by the sound of the special sardines by our dishy waiter, I decided to order off the al la carte menu. The dishes are a little more expensive and you for go the sourdough, but I wasn't disappointed (plus I took liberties with Daddy Q and the Boy's - all in the name of gastronomic research of course).

The chewy and delicious sourdough (before research commenced)

With tapas there's so much that comes out that I won't bore you with all the details, however I will say that each dish that come out was well presented and well prepared; such as the chargirlled, peppery and refreshingly lemony chicken and cous cous or the generous shavings of manchego over the grilled mushrooms. There were only one or two negatives such as a slightly under seasoned dish of patatas bravas (however so crisp and fresh it really didn't detract) and a slightly insipid salami on the charcuteria plate (but accompanied by a divine Serrano I'd give my eye teeth for, or £8.95..).

Charcuteria plate

However it's choosing which of the star dishes to describe as there were so many. The morcilla (black pudding) came out crispy atop a sharp, soft, herby apple sauce - a great texture clash, the sharp sauce cutting through the sweet pudding and the little onion rings on top were great; crisp and sweet and divine.


Another star dish was the aforementioned specials board sardines - soft, chargrilled and lovely. The whiting off the lunch menu was similarly well cooked with the addition of an exceptionally tasty chive and chorizo sauce, which set off the fish brilliantly and made the whole dish dance.

Mussels off the a la carte menu were sensational; smokey, sweet, soft, salty - luckily served with a spoon so I could unashamedly sup up the sauce like the great big glutton I am.

Mussels - really good portion size and so lovely!

I'm not usually one for puddings at lunch time; but after the raving success of the mains plates we dived in with glee - and I'm so glad we did. Daddy Q's soft meringues, peaches and cream was a pillowy and comforting adult version of baby food (Baby Q would be proud), the Boy's olorosso sherry took a British classic and (shhhh!) improved it (I know!).

But the star was my ice cream with sugared almonds, espresso and PX sherry - a Spanish version of the Italian affogato. I couldn't imagine such a simple concept would be so brilliant, but I was wrong and fell in love (I think the use of amazing produce and a great PX helped). Pour over the PX and a splash of the espresso - or otherwise the espresso will drown out everything else.

The best pudding - Ice cream, sugared almonds, PX and espresso

Salt House Tapas' website proclaims their love of provenance and sourcing of good quality ingredients, this ethos certainly shines through in the food they serve; however this isn't stated on the menu (they're not fans of that apparently), but I think maybe they should boast a little - the people of Liverpool need to know what a great treasure they have on their doorsteps. Lets hope it stays there.

Ps - Book ahead, especially at weekends as it gets very, very busy. Whilst we were there they were constantly turning people away or getting them to eat at the bar. If you are going at a busy time ask to have a table upstairs (if you don't have a pram!) as the downstairs in in the constant draft of the door - ok in summer, but not in Jan!

Pps -  and what about Baby Q? A star. Slept the whole way through, even when a fat Spanish senora practically sat on the pram. What's that about babies in restaurants (at lunch anyway)?

Price for three set lunch menus (bread and three plates £8.95), three a la carte plates, three puddings, one pint of beer, one bottle of beer, one san pellegrino limonata, two carafes of filtered tap water (50p donated to Alder Hey hospital) and one hot chocolate - £69.95

Value for money - 8/10
Service - 9/10
Atmosphere - 9/10

Total - 35/40

Salt House Tapas, The Salt House, Hanover Street, Liverpool L1 3DW - 0151 706 0092 - @salthousetapas

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