It’s tucked away...but this hidden city gem is well worth the effort.
Walking along a street full of derelict buildings looking for where we had planned to go for a meal, I was beginning to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn.
Stratos, part of the San Marco group, is tucked away in Preston’s Avenham Street, overlooking a pile of rubble.
Still, walking into the modern, lively bar, it appeared we had stumbled upon a hidden treasure.
The venue is a cocktail bar and Italian tapas restaurant, and had a welcoming vibe on a sunny Wednesday evening.
We were shown to our seats and were impressed by the relaxed atmosphere that went with the swanky decor.
We had stumbled upon a hidden treasure
The restaurant markets itself as offering Italian tapas, with its website explaining the concept stems from the Venetian tradition of “cicchetti”, or small plates.
We were handed a menu that advised everything was tapas style, designed to be shared.
I was drawn to pretty much everything, although was sceptical as to how all the dishes would complement each other.
After seeking some advice on what – and how many – dishes to choose from our helpful waitress, we settled on five plates.
We plumped for mussels alla crema – steamed with cream, garlic, white wine and onions, tempura prawns with sweet chilli dipping sauce, and calamari with chillies and tartar sauce.
We also chose a lasagne and black pudding bruschetta, which was served with salami and caramelised vegetables. The menu said everything was made fresh to order, and every dish was brought out separately, with a reassuring wait for our lasagne to arrive at the table.
I had been unsure about the combination and how the dishes would work together, but every plate was a treat.
The mussels were cooked beautifully with a sweet, creamy sauce, served with bread to mop up the end of the juice.
Both the squid and the prawns were lovely and crisp, with the sauces complementing them perfectly.
The bruschetta was piled high with black pudding, salami and sliced peppers, and the lasagne was comforting and moreish with bubbling sauce around the edges.
Between the two of us we polished off all the food and two glasses of wine each, but still couldn’t resist a look at the dessert menu.
I was tempted by the chocolate and salted caramel tart – a pastry case filled with rich salted caramel and chocolate ganache.
However, we both chose white chocolate tiramisu, which was absolutely gorgeous.
It was served with a shot of espresso and a caramel biscuit (in case we were still hungry), and both platefuls were demolished in seconds.
With five main dishes, two desserts and four glasses of wine for just over £50, we will definitely be heading back to this hidden gem of a restaurant.