I’ve never been to mainland Spain although I once took a winter break on Lanzorote, the northernmost part of the Canary Islands. That was over 47 years ago. We flew from a misty, sub-zero Manchester on New Year’s Day, before it was a Bank Holiday in England, on a Freddie Laker Airways flight; landing at Arrecife in a balmy 21˚ of brilliant sunshine. In those days there was just a handful of hotels on the island and one tarmacked road.
One of my memories is of the tapas bar at the Mirador del Rio at the north of the island and the incredible vista across the tiny strait of El Rio (so narrow it’s just called the river) to the islands of the Chinijo Archipelago. I remember the stunning view but I don’t remember the tapas. So when an opportunity arose to sample tapas again, closer to home, myself and Susan jumped at the chance.
The venue was the recently refurbished Denby Lodge, Denby Village, Derbyshire. Famous for their steaks they have added tapas to the main menu. Traditionally, a tapa is a small snack served as you stand at a crowded bar but at the Denby Lodge it’s been elevated to a dining experience.
Although we visited the pub on a busy Friday evening there was no problem parking in the large and well lit car park. The double doors of The Denby Lodge lead in to a large and relaxing lounge bar. It was busy but not crowded. The layout of the bar guides your eye to the entrance of the spacious restaurant area. We made our way over to it, introduced ourselves and were shown to a quiet table. The seating in the restaurant is flexible; we had a table for 2 and around us were tables for 4, a party of 6 and a birthday party of 12.
The pub has recently launched a brand new menu with a wide range of new dishes including, for the first time, a tapas selection; with 15 dishes to choose from. We decided to follow the suggestion on the menu and order 3 dishes each but asked them to stagger their arrival so that we could use the first 2 as our starter.
Susan chose the mussels with chilli and chorizo and I ordered the seafood stew. The stew was pieces of fresh cod and salmon, shellfish and prawns in a white wine, cream and garlic sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly and the light sauce didn’t over power the delicate flavours. The mussels with chorizo was again a perfect balance of spices and succulent shellfish. There was just a hint of chilli in the tomato and chorizo sauce.
The main event was 4 dishes that we could share: Portuguese baked egg, cauliflower bites with sweet chilli jam, calamari rings and halloumi fries. It’s a colourful spectacle to see your table laden with all 4 dishes and with so many inviting aromas it makes you want to tuck in.
We both sampled the halloumi fries first. The fried cheese takes on a crisp coat but has a soft, melting centre. We very quickly cleared the plate. The cauliflower bites were fresh, deep fried florets coated in a crispy batter. If you love fritters you’ll love this tender, white vegetable dipped in the sweet chilli jam. The crunchy coated calamari rings were tender and served on a bed of salad. The Portuguese baked egg dish is a lightly cooked egg sitting in the middle of a bed of spiced tomato and red onion topped by sliced chorizo and served in a hot, metal skillet.
Susan sipped a glass of chilled, white wine and I drank a cold lager as we shared our meal and chatted the evening away. The restaurant has a lively but relaxed atmosphere and the ever attentive staff, who persuaded us to finish with a shared dark and squidgy chocolate torte, leave you wanting for nothing.
Our thanks go to Sally, Ben and their staff for creating an evening where we could feel comfortable; take our time and chat while enjoying a very relaxed meal with a difference.