For the greedy among us, It’s always a blow when a favourite restaurant closes its doors for good.
No sooner had I added Pond and its delicious tapas onto the shortlist for our ‘restaurant review of the year 2016’ feature than it shut up shop. While a little pricy, the Spanish-themed food was always top notch, and there were a few quirky dishes on the menu to keep each visit fresh and interesting.
Alas, times move on and I’ve been looking for somewhere new to get an occasional tapas fix. I spotted How the Other Half Live while meandering towards Winckley Square one day, and decided to give it a try.
Its pretty exterior, with little outdoor tables and sparkly chairs, looks inviting and certainly fits in with the attractive cobbled paths on one of the city centre’s nicer side streets (though its windows seem to get overly steamed up, making it hard to have a peer in!)
How the Other Half Live runs as a day-time café, but over several nights, it opens late to offer a tapas evening menu.
Its dual function as a café and gift shop means the surroundings are a little quaint at night, but I actually quite enjoyed perusing the jewellery and dinky money boxes on the shelves while I waited the tinkle of the old-school doorbell to chime in my friends’ arrival. It has a cosy, gently-lit atmosphere, with quite small tables, meaning it’s probably best suited to smaller groups of diners than large birthday parties.
The £10 menu for two tapas plus a side dish proved popular with all three of my Eating Out buddies – definitely more affordable than Pond, but could the food compete?
The menu was wide-ranging, offering a lot of choice, with a few quirky dishes to tempt us away from Mediterranean tradition. A couple of items had run out, but our very polite waiter was apologetic and offered alternative suggestions.
My tapas-eating rule is to get a good, complementary mix (one meat, one cheesy and some veg), so I went for the chicken & chorizo skewers, the halloumi salad and garlic and rosemary potatoes, and my meat-loving fellow diners tried to mix it up a bit by dabbling with some more unconventional offerings, such as a hotdog and mini toad-in-the-hole.
The tapas arrived, in true Spanish style, with small gaps in between, but I quite like how this stops the hungry among us gobbling small plates down too fast.
My chicken and chorizo skewers were my favourite. The chicken cubes were perfectly tender and succulent, jazzed up with chunky, meaty chorizo slices and finished with a slice of yellow pepper on each stick. There was a small dish of sweet chilli sauce on the side which packed a real spicy punch, but the dish was tasty enough to work with or without an accompaniment.
The garlic and rosemary potatoes were plentiful and made a crispy alternative to the standard patatas bravas (though one of my fellow diners did order a plateful and was pleased with the rich, tomatoey sauce.)
My halloumi and asparagus salad went well with my other choices (along with a few sneaked bites of my friends’ dishes) and added some welcome greens, though the halloumi could have done with a little more seasoning to lift it.
To my left, my partner made short work of a mini chicken burger, which was breaded, a bit like a schnitzel, and came smothered in more blue cheese and a toasted small bun. He kindly shared some of his lamb koftas, which were hefty and hearty, and not fatty in the way lamb can sometimes be. One of my friends had a portion of these too and was pleased the creamy sauce again came in a side pot, so you can choose to dunk or not to dunk (I did and it was delicious).
My friends shared their spoils of king prawns, a hotdog and toad in the hole and enjoyed the variety of getting to sample lots of meaty, mini dishes that were a little different from the Spanish norm. Everything was well-presented and there wasn’t so much as a lettuce leaf left when we were done.
The drink selection was also very good, from a golden real ale for my partner to a mouth-watering cloudy lemonade for me, which looked almost cocktail-like in a pretty jam jar, with strawberries and blueberries bobbing around in the bubbles.
The café was quiet on the evening we popped in, which I think may have been partly due to the fact it’s January and we are all a bit skint after Christmas. But when the bill for some great quality food for four, plus four drinks, came to just under £50, an evening meal here won’t stretch your wallet.