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Los Amigos (Stockport)

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1 Review

Tapas bar / Address: 157 London Road / Stockport / Cheshire / SK7 4HH / Tel: 0160 484 0525

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      26.01.2010 08:03
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      Go hungry, leave happy - if you go during happy hour - or poor

      Manchester is awash with tapas restaurants, from a slightly excessive number of branches of La Tasca to various independent places. Both Didsbury and the city centre have good choices, and I live within walking distance of the former and a short drive of the latter, so until now I've never really had reason to stray any further. However, before Christmas I was having a get together with some former colleagues including a couple who live in High Peak / New Mills, so Stockport (where we all work / used to work) was a more convenient option. Stockport is not known for its fine dining, and though it has a few nice restaurants, it also has some not so nice ones, so I didn't know what Los Amigos was going to be like, except that it was well named for a reunion of old friends.

      The restaurant is located on the A6 / London Road, in Hazel Grove (just south of the hospital, and a few miles from the town centre). It is not too impressive from the outside as it looks a bit like a house and sits right on the pavement, with no proper entrance set back at all or anything. The place looks a little garish - someone clearly thinks "Spanish" equals red and yellow and lots of wood, and has gone to great lengths to those colours excessively in the paint job. It also stands out like a sore thumb from the neighbouring buildings, but at least the design makes it easy to find as you're driving along. Heading south it's on the left hand side, and while it has no parking and the A6 itself is off limits, there are numerous side streets nearby that you can abandon your car on. You can see a photo of the restaurant on their website, link below.

      We had booked a table for a Friday night and the place was quite busy when we arrived. While we waited for everyone to arrive, we sat in the "bar" area which makes it sound a lot grander than it is. In reality, it consists of a wooden bar mostly used by the waiting staff for sorting out drinks orders, and two tables that can only be differentiated from the "restaurant" by the fact they are tall and have stools, not normal height with chairs. Even when the full group arrived, we weren't shown to our table and eventually had to ask if it was ready. It was, and we were lead to a quite large round table in one corner of the deceptively large restaurant - it is long and quite narrow, so fits a lot more people than you might imagine from its shop front. Inside the colour scheme continues, with wooden tables adorned with red and yellow (paper!) napkins and warm-coloured walls, but when full of diners and a hum of chatter and background musak fill the air, it is rather cosy though too busy and bustling for it to be a top spot for a romantic night out. For a group of girls catching up after quite some time, however, it was perfect.

      Los Amigos calls itself a "Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar" but the focus is clearly on the small nibbles, with the vast majority of the menu dedicated to these. There are over 50 tapas on offer, including the usuals - Patatas Bravas, Chorizo and so on - and some less common offerings including baked Aubergine, lamb stuffed baked potatoes and a dish that includes black pudding and chick peas. The menu is organised rather randomly, for example the vegetarian dishes are scattered about (though clearly marked) , and garlic bread , garlic bread with tomato and cheese, and plain bread with allioli can all be found in totally different sections. In addition to tapas, there have maybe a dozen main courses, though all of these are meat or fish, and a few large Paellas for sharing. When we were there, they also had 6 or 7 specials written up on the chalk board in big loopy, slightly hard to read writing.

      Part of the reason it took people so long to decide what they wanted was down to the size of the menu, and part I believe was down to the price. It was more expensive than I had expected for a rather unassuming place in a rather unassuming part of a rather unassuming town, and because of this I was a little thrown and wasn't quite sure how big the dishes were going to be, and thus how many I would want - the menu gives no guidance beyond indulging in "several portions or raciones" to form full meal. The rest of the group took the easy way out and ordered the Special Party Menu which costs £14.50 per person (and requires a minimum of 4 people). This offers a set selection of dishes for everyone to share, in true tapas style, but wasn't veggie-friendly unless you wanted to eat only garlic bread, mixed salad and potatoes. It also included chicken croquettes, calamari, pork medallions and mini paella among other things. The total selection included 11 dishes, and our group got one of each though larger groups I assume would get multiple and/or larger portions. I'm not sure it actually worked out as much better value than ordering dishes individually, but did at least mean a large selection to choose from. If we had been there during happy hour (5.30pm - 7pm Monday to Saturday, all day Sunday) an alternative would have been to order any 5 tapas for £11.95 which is a better deal both in terms of freedom and cost - individually the tapas cost from £3.25 to £6.25 with the vast majority between £4 and £5 each, similar to a starter in many restaurants.

      The staff were very accommodating and allowed me to order separately, something not always an option when people want to choose a group menu. I opted for the Goats Cheese special and some veggie fajitas initially. The Goats cheese was delicious but tiny - just one slice atop a large salad which was disappointing as it really looked like they stuck a bunch of leaves on to pad it out a bit - for almost a fiver, I really had expected more. The Fajitas were also on the minute side, and came with a cold dip (I was expecting it to be warm, as the tortillas were) but tasted great, and I would have rated them highly if they weren't costing me £3.80 for three pieces the size of my little finger (and I have freakishly small, doll sized hands).

      The others got their food in two servings, while mine came out all at once. Once I'd finished I decided I did want at least one more thing, and ordered the deep fried cheese parcels, which took about 10 minutes to materialise. These were not what I was expecting from the description - they were breaded while I was expecting a pastry style coating - but like everything else they were good, if slightly small. This wasn't the only thing I though didn't match what was depicted on the menu (everything had Spanish names and then English descriptions underneath) and so it turned into a bit of a guessing game, where you thought you knew (in two languages) what you would be getting, and then would be rather surprised when it appeared. Some things were a lot less Spanish than I would imagine - the garlic bread that came out for the others, for example, could have been served in any restaurant and didn't have a real Spanish flavour to it. That said, there was nothing purely British on the menu - not that you would expect there to be, but I have some friends who are super fussy and would probably struggle to eat here. The sensible thing would be not to take them to a Spanish place if they didn't like Spanish food, but there are some who expect burgers and chips to be on offer wherever they go, and they would go hungry here.

      We had room for puddings - after all, the portions had been quite small - and were brought over a mini blackboard that was the menu they used for their ever changing selection. I must give them credit for these, as the options were vast, and included all manner of chocolate and fruity treats, including tarts and cheesecakes and ice creams. I went for my old staple of chocolate fudge cake and was rather put out that they didn't ask if I wanted cream or ice cream, until they redeemed themselves and served it up with both (which is, after all, what I always want to answer when I am asked the question). The puddings were well-sized for a post-meal treat and left us satisfied if not stuffed, but if you'd just gone in for coffee and cake, you might have expected more of a helping for your fiver. The quality seemed good - everyone's choices were well presented and prompted all sorts of "Oohs" as they came out individually. The churros especially went down well, and were fresher and hotter than the ones I'd recently sampled in La Tasca, though still not a patch on the ones you can pick up on the streets of Mexico City.


      In total, the bill came to about £25 each including some but not all of the drinks (some we'd paid for while waiting at the bar). This is, of course, quite reasonable for a meal out, but I couldn't help feeling a little short changed by the amount of food I'd had (or not had) to eat for that price.

      The service throughout the night was good if not perfect - on a number of occasions we struggled to flag down a waiter to order more drinks or for me to add an additional dish, and when we had placed those orders they took long enough to arrive that you were just starting to wonder whether they had been forgotten. What was interesting was that, although packed when we arrived, the restaurant was quite deserted when we left at 10pm. This was the Friday before Christmas, too, prime time for office parties and so on, and yet we were the only people left by then, and the staff had started clearing up. I suppose with hindsight this could be due to its location - late diners might prefer somewhere more central, with bars nearby to stagger into afterwards - but it seemed peculiar at the time. I don't think I've ever closed a restaurant before, except when I was a waitress, so it was a novel experience.

      I enjoyed my night here, and would certainly return but probably during the happy hour, as I could easily eat 5 tapas with the way they size them, and would get them for less than the 3 I had this time cost me.

      Overall, I though the food was nicely presented and tasty, but I was thrown by the discrepancy between what I was expecting and what arrived sometimes, and by the size of the dishes considering their cost. That said, they had a good selection, including a number of tasty vegetarian options I didn't get to try on this occasion, which is quite a rarity even these days.

      You can view a menu online at:

      www.losamigosstockport.co.uk

      which is a feature I like and also a reason it didn't take me too long to decide, since I'd been pouring over it for a couple of days before we went.


      The restaurant is open from 5.30pm Monday to Saturday and from noon on Sundays. Closing time varies by day of the week - see website for more details.

      157 London Road
      Hazel Grove
      Stockport
      SK7 4HH

      Tel: 0161 484 0525 (NB note the correct dialing code - mis-typed in the blurb above)

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