The end of a school year saw the annual meal to say goodbye to retiring staff: a sad and poignant time for them, an expensive and long one for us! So it was with a sense of relief that we ended up in Esteban, the modestly priced tapas restaurant on Lark Lane. Arriving by car, I benefited from the on-site car park and entered a colourful dining room. Though quite garish in orange and blue, it did at least have me reminiscing about a tie and shirt combo I used to wear in the 90s.
“Only then to all realise they might have ordered it and fight like Essex girls over a sunbed, over whose it is!”
We were seated quickly and service throughout was efficient and pleasant, even at the order and delivery stage which, when it comes to tapas, can be toe-curlingly excruciating. You know, that moment when the poor lass has been standing there holding a plate of gambas something-or-other with the seated clientele initially ignoring her then each denying the item is theirs with the persistence of St Peter pre-cockerel aria. Only then for them all to realise they might have ordered it and fight, like Essex girls over a sunbed, over whose it is! I digress..
After a lengthy wait, for colleagues who never arrived (how rude), our Gaffer indicated we could order. Now to me, tapas is a funny thing: on the plus side it is great as you get to try many different things, often from other people’s plates and to not have a meal ruined by a wrong choice or error in the kitchen – in effect not having all your eggs in one basket. However, on the downside, people seem to think your dishes are also fair game for them, you feel aggrieved when one of your choices has to be what I consider a side order (patatas bravas you know I am talking about you!) and usually at least one of your dishes isn’t very nice. Would today be different?
There were 7 of us so I will not encumber you with details of all that was ordered, but I selected the pescaditos fritos (whitebait), the pollo con miel (chicken in honey) and the patatas bravas. I was also able to purloin a nibble of the garlic bread and extravagantly named tartas de chorizo y champinones (Yorkshire pudding with chorizo and mushrooms). This was accompanied by a couple of bottles of sparkling water and a black coffee to finish.
“When done well, this humble dish can be the Cinderella of the ball”
Service remained good and, after an acceptable wait, our food began to arrive. The whitebait was slightly over cooked and at the upper end of my own, generous, salt levels. With the accompanying mayo it was, however, OK. Sadly the patatas bravas, a personal favourite of mine was not so good. When done well, this humble dish can be the Cinderella of the ball: resplendent with a flavour packed sauce, well cooked potatoes and the added luxury of creme fraiche to act as the glass slipper. Sadly these little characters had not been invited to the ball. What looked and tasted like new potatoes which had been deep fried with a sparse and bland sauce. Garlic bread was tasty and moist.
The best two dishes were the chicken in honey and the Yorkshire pud. The former was cooked on the bone and came with a sweet and beautifully sticky sauce: very well cooked and moist. The latter I was only able to try a small piece of, courtesy of a donation from my colleague Cough, but was a very tasty mix of Spanish sausage, mushrooms and a carefully balanced combination of sweet chutney and grilled mozzarella. Coffee and sparkling water were standard.
As we gathered ourselves for the forthcoming post-meal celebration we asked for the bill, working out around a reasonable £22 per person including drinks and tip. Reflecting upon the meal it would be fair to say it was a typical mixed bag Spanish tapas: some good some bad and some ugly.
Type: family / budget restaurant
- Service: 7.5/10 Mostly good, even during the hard times!
- Atmosphere: 5/10 Quiet midweek but rather garish interior
- Food: 6/10 a typical tapas mix of good and bad
- Value for money: 7/10 reasonable at £22 per head
- Overall: 6.5 Quite good but could be better
These are judged against the best of that type of restaurant. For example cafes against what you would expect from the best cafes, high end restaurants against the best high end restaurants etc.
Website: Esteban Menu