When I started this blog, I wanted to write about home cooking and the life of the home cook. I was asked if I intended to do restaurant reviews and I decided that I wasn’t for two reasons. First, because I thought that you, as a home cook, would just want recipes. Secondly, I didn’t like the idea of trashing someone’s livelihood after just one visit, what if the Chef had been taken ill or things has just gone wrong that night?
I’ve changed my mind. I’ve changed my mind because I’ve realised, I just LOVE food. Full Stop! I love planning what we’re going to eat, I love cooking it, I love dreaming about it, I love discussing for hours what I’ve eaten or am about to eat, whoever has cooked it, with my best friends and family. I love going out to restaurants and taking new ideas home to try out. Put simply, my love of food spans all aspects of my life. I would guess that is the same for you.
Anyway all of us home cooks deserve a night off!
I do have one restriction for my restaurant reviews. I still don’t want to trash someone’s livelihood. To that end I will only write positive reviews. If I don’t like what I’ve eaten, I intend to keep quiet about it and you won’t see it reviewed here.
Roja Pinchos, 50 Berry St, Liverpool, L1 4JQ
This afternoon we visited Roja Pinchos for Sunday Lunch. We first heard about this newish Liverpool restaurant a few weeks ago at a supper club we’d attended. After that, wherever we went, people kept asking us what we thought about it. Somebody even asked me about it when I was at work in Manchester. So this weekend we decided to find out what all the buzz was about. We weren’t disappointed.
Roja Pinchos opened seven months ago and is Liverpool’s first Pinchos restaurant. Pinchos, as I understand it and I’m willing to stand corrected, are the Catalonian equivalent of the Castilian tapas, small dishes of Spanish delicacies. My own experience of tapas is somewhat varied. I freely admit that Spanish cuisine is one of my favourite cuisines, I just love its inventiveness, simplicity and focus on flavours. I have, however, had some far from perfect experiences with tapas where I’ve spent a bomb on mediocre dishes.
As we were going for Sunday Lunch I thought I’d ring to find out if we should book. There’s no booking for parties of two, you just turn up and chance your luck. I’m not quite sure whether booking is required for larger parties on Sundays, but I’d recommend that you check, as it is quite a small space upstairs.
We got to the restaurant at 12.30, at which time there was one other group in the room, but a large party followed on our heels. By the time we left at 2pm the place was full upstairs. We were greeted and seated very quickly. We were given a small bowl of olives and the menu was explained by a very knowledgeable Catalonian waitress, who we later discovered was also a photographer. We were informed that the Sunday menu was an array of cold and hot tapas for £15 and included a glass of cava.
Then we were invited to help ourselves to the large number of cold tapas which were set out on the bar. You can see from the photographs that the cold tapas are an art form in themselves. The food is styled and staged with a simplicity that belies the skill that goes into creating these small dishes. This is not a case, however, where style triumphs over substance. If it is possible, and I’m not entirely sure that it is, the cold tapas tasted even better than they looked.
Some of the tapas were extremely simple such as the chorizo and manchego cheese, but became something more than expected on tasting them. We discussed the possibility that the manchego cheese and chorizo had been glazed with honey, but didn’t actually get around to confirming this with the waitress because there were so many delights waiting to be tasted. My husband had a small stuffed roasted pepper, resting on a basil leaf and a small piece of bread, which was simply delicious in both flavour and textures.
Another of my favourites was Serrano ham, wrapped around a date, which had ground ginger in the middle of it. The flavour combinations of the salty cured ham, sweet date with the heat of the ground ginger was just amazing. The breadth of flavours and choice for the cold tapas were very impressive including figs, goats cheese covered with pistachio nuts and crab meat to name a few. The quality of the ingredients used was simply stunning, better than I’ve eaten in Barcelona at times.
Shortly after we’d started our cold tapas, the hot tapas were brought out to us and the delights continued. There were tapas that you will have eaten before such as patatas bravas and croquetas but they were freshly cooked to order and so avoided that greasy, heaviness that often seem to accompany fried tapas. There were other tapas that we’d never tried before that simply blew us away. The grilled mackerel on a beetroot puree was fantastic. It was definitely my husband’s favourite and he doesn’t even like beetroot! I also really must mention the glass of cava which accompanied the tapas. It was lovely and I really wasn’t expecting it to be so good.
We ordered one dessert of churros and chocolate between us, which wasn’t part of the Sunday menu. I didn’t care as I just love churros so much. The sauce tasted just like you would expect Heaven to taste if you are a chocolate lover.
Roja Pinchos is a beautifully designed restaurant with clean, simple lines and a functional, yet pleasing, feel to it. Sunday lunch is upstairs but there is a downstairs part to the restaurant which was closed today, but I was invited to take a look at it. Just like the upstairs it’s very stylish and the candles would, I imagine, give a real warmth to any evening occasion. I was informed by the waitress that there is also an intention to hold cultural evenings downstairs, which sounds very interesting.
Final comments should be about the service, which was impeccable, welcoming, attentive and knowledgeable. The hot tapas were served as they were made and in good time. A lovely experience and we will definitely return to one of Liverpool’s newest hotspots.