15/02/14 - Exploring Liverpool: Salt House Tapas

I suppose this is something of a Valentine's Day edition of my new 'Exploring Liverpool' series (you can find last month's post here), but not really.  Heather and I had initially intended to do the whole 'single girls on V-Day' thing of treating ourselves to a dinner-and-drinks date night but of course 14th February gets booked up pretty bloody quickly, so we went on the day before instead...which is apparently known as Desperation Day, a name I do not appreciate.  I much prefer the Parks and Rec version known as Galentine's Day, a chance to celebrate your best lady friends. 

In a bid to continue our mission to discover the best of Liverpool's independent eateries, we headed to Salt House Tapas on Hanover Street.  Just as it says on the tin, it serves up a range of fresh and exciting tapas at fairly reasonable prices.  I love tapas because I'm a big fan of meals which involve sharing.  I always want to sample everyone else's food when I eat out, and the idea of tapas makes that much more socially acceptable.  The atmosphere of Salt House was informal and comfortable and from the moment we sat down, I knew I was going to like it.  All the staff were very friendly, but the waiter who seated us was particularly attentive and chatty throughout the evening.  I always prefer that to surly waiting staff, and the experience was really enhanced by feeling so welcome.

Our evening started - as, in my opinion, every evening should - with cocktails and bread.  The bread was lovely and fresh, served with balsamic oil and aioli (£2.95), and the cocktail menu was fairly extensive and more varied than you get in some restaurants.  Heather had a Salt House Berry Bellini and I went for a Sloe Gin Sour.

Unfortunately the lovely atmospheric lighting made taking photos on my ancient camera a bit difficult, but it did mean that I got to experiment with my new phone camera.  Sorry they're not the best quality!

We decided to share a selection of five dishes, the best way to get a taste for the menu and for Heather to try some new foods she wouldn't necessarily want to eat a whole plate of by herself.  We ordered everything at the same time, but it came to the table as and when it was ready which I liked as it means that your dinner is definitely hot and fresh rather than sitting out in the kitchen waiting for the other dishes to be ready.  Heather got the roasted Iberico pork served with wild mushroom, tarragon cream sauce and kale (£6.95) - unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it before she tucked in, because apparently it was very tasty (obviously I can't judge that) - and gin cured salmon with cucumber, fennel, blood orange and dill oil (£5.50).  She wasn't a massive fan of the salmon, so that became fair game for sharing!

I ordered the sizzling prawns cooked in garlic, chilli and olive oil (£6.50and boy, were they sizzling!  The photo doesn't quite do it justice, but these bad boys were hot.  And delicious.  Perfectly cooked and seasoned, they were a real treat which we both really enjoyed.

I also had deep fried Monte Enebro goat's cheese with honey and red beetroot crisps (£6.95).  There was also some lovely beetroot-y stuff underneath the cheese and overall, it was possibly my favourite dish that we tried.  As soon as I stuck my fork into it, the lovely gooey cheesiness oozed out and was perfectly complimented by the sweetness of the beetroot.  That's my idea of heaven.  Who needs a boyfriend when you have deep fried cheese?  Not me.

We also shared a portion of patatas bravas (£4.50) and there was a lot of dipping in and out of each dish, sampling a bit of everything.  Heather learned that she doesn't really like smoked salmon but that goat's cheese isn't as bad as she thought it would be after the initial very cheesy hit!  

As we ate, we sipped our cocktails and chatted about anything and everything, giggling away the whole time.  I had a couple of embarrassing moments, one involving a stubborn prawn and one where I knocked the quirky little cutlery tin very noisily onto the floor.  In some places, I would have been utterly mortified but the atmosphere was so informal and chilled that I just scooped it back up and ducked my head over my drink in case anyone was staring, rather than having to hide in the toilets!

Then it was time for dessert and more cocktails.  This came in the form of churros with cinnamon sugar and a chocolate dipping pot (£4.95) accompanied by an Aperol spritz and a basil mojito.  The churros were utterly divine, crunchy and sweet, and the sauce was rich and not too sweet which can be a problem with more synthetic chocolate sauces.  This one was the real deal.

Aperol is a bitter orange aperitif and has a very distinctive flavour that isn't to everyone's taste, but I loved the combination of the liqueur with prosecco.  The basil mojito was really refreshing due to not being as sweet as mint tends to be.  The word we found best to describe the flavour was 'garden' but in the best possible way.  A lovely delicious alcoholic garden.  Perfect.

Overall, I was very impressed with the whole experience.  Everything was delivered to the table promptly, the staff were very welcoming and all the food was of an incredibly high quality.  When the bill arrived, we agreed that we maybe could have economised on certain areas of the meal, but everything was so delicious that we couldn't bring ourselves to regret spending more than we'd intended to.  It would certainly be possible to have a satisfying meal at Salt House Tapas on a budget if money was a concern.

We popped over to Alma de Cuba (which I mentioned in more detail in my last Exploring Liverpool post) for another drink before hitting the road.  As ever, the cocktails were delightful and there was live music which is always a nice addition to an evening.  The whole thing was the perfect way to celebrate pre-Valentine's Day in my opinion; it should be about love of all varieties rather than just the romantic kind!  My actual 14th February was spent lounging on the sofa in the depths of a cold and watching TV with my parents...what a wild life I lead.

Where is your favourite place to get tapas?  Have you ever been to Salt House?  Let me know in the comments!

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