Megan Walsh heads south to sniff out some satisfying Spanish tapas where you’d least expect it
Being from Liverpool is, as we locals would say, boss. But being from South Liverpool, I would argue, is even better.
When you live in South Liverpool, you don’t need to go into town for a decent meal because everything you could ever fancy is on your doorstep – massive brekkie on Smithdown, picky bits on Allerton Road, stone-baked pizza in the adorably quaint Woolton Village. But have you ever wandered a little further afield? I’m not talking about Lark Lane. I mean have you ever sauntered down to the shops on Hunts Cross Avenue? I’m not joking, honestly. Carry on reading…
a labour of love existing only to bring a local tapas culture to the even more local streets of Woolton
Sandwiched between a chemist and hair salon and a newsagent and chippy, there’s a small double-fronted premises with a simple red-and-white sign above the door: ‘Sabrosa: Spanish tapas restaurant’. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never encountered a tapas restaurant on any other row of local shops in Liverpool, so I did some asking around and – after hearing several good things – felt compelled to give it a try.
We came on a Thursday evening and the place was chocker. Sabrosa is far from fancy – you’ll find no fine tableware and the menu is a simple piece of laminated paper – but it’s rustic and authentic. It’s also tiny, seating no more than 30, and the kitchen can be seen behind a wooden crated shelf, which acts as a sort of wall to the quiet chaos going on behind the scenes.
Like all good Mediterranean meals, we began with a selection of bread and dips (£3.75). There was no drinks menu, so we played it safe and ordered a couple of beers (£3.50) – because life is too short for drinking bad bevvies. I did find it odd that a restaurant would be lacking a proper wine list, but it soon transpired that Sabrosa welcomes the BYOB rule – which is a handy perk considering there’s a carry-out in the next parade down.
Back to the food and we went all out, ordering a decent selection of tapas dishes, all of them generously portioned and almost all faultless (maybe give the tortilla, £4.95, a miss; microwaved to within an inch of its life, it had a texture like a piece of felt you might find in your old craft box). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can usually judge a Spanish place by the quality of its patatas bravas – and Sabrosa’s (£4.75) surpassed expectations. Heavy on the paprika, no chunk of potato without a coating of the garlicky sauce, these bravas were melt-in-your-mouth good.
The meatballs (£5.25) were little forkfuls of juxtaposing flavours – smoky chorizo complemented by a sweet and tangy sauce – while the garlic prawns (£5.50) were simple and moreish, as all classic tapas should be. The grilled goat cheese in its sticky pool of honey (£5.50) wasn’t the most handsome of dishes but we enjoyed it nonetheless. The ham croquettes (£5.50) were unfaultable but fairly forgettable, although that may be because they were quickly followed by the garlic mushrooms (£4.75) – another simple one, but a stand-out dish nonetheless. For someone who isn’t a huge lover of black pudding, I was pleasantly surprised by our final dish of morcilla and Padrón peppers (£5.25), the sausage heavy on the cumin and speckled with rice.
For a random little restaurant in the most unpredictable of places, I was endeared by the no-frills dining experience at Sabrosa. Like the nature of its whereabouts, Sabrosa is a local affair – a labour of love existing only to bring a local tapas culture to the even more local streets of Woolton. And usually I’d say the phrase ‘a hidden gem’ is a massive cliché, but for the first time now I understand what it means.
Even writing this review, I feel like I’m revealing some sort of secret dining club, exposing a hidden institution to the hungry masses of Liverpool. But as The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins once said, some secrets are too delicious not to share – and I have a feeling this little Spanish offering won’t be under the radar for long. As for me, all I know is, next time I head down to the shops on Hunts Cross Avenue, it won’t be for chips and gravy.
Sabrosa, 271 Hunts Cross Avenue, Liverpool L25 9ND
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Tortilla 1, patatas bravas 9, meatballs 8, garlic prawns 8, grilled goat cheese 7, ham croquettes 6, garlic mushrooms 7, morcilla and Padrón peppers 7
A bit slap-dash, but served with a smile
No frills. Boss food