The d�cor and the dishes evoke the Mediterranean even if the location is Magdalen Street. SARAH BREALEY enjoys the Spanish flavour at Torero.
They really were very small squid, swimming in a sea of black ink. Perhaps a dish not highly to be recommended shortly after reading the recent coverage of the baby octupuses and Hunstanton Sea Life Centre.
Did you know that once octopus eggs have hatched, the mother octopus usually dies not long afterwards, because she is so intent on looking after them that she forgets to feed herself? And according to the Sea Life Centre at least, no-one has yet managed to rear octopus fry to maturity. (It almost seems like a crime to eat them, but let's hope squid have a slightly more straightforward life cycle.)
The other half didn't seem to mind this at all — he pronounced them tender and tasty, if slightly salty for his preference. But then squeamishness is certainly not one of his failings — his favourite dish of the night was the Span-ish black pudding – not greatly dissimilar to English black pudding, and not a dish where you want to think too hard about how it is made.
To be fair to Torero, there is something to suit every palate, and very many dishes that no-one could possibly object to. I think this is probably Norwich's best Spanish restaurant, and its popularity is long-standing.
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There are lots of main courses, including paella and fish dishes. But I love tapas, and in the interests of trying as many things as possible, we decided to share lots of dishes.
At Torero you can have tapas proper — the kind that you might have with a drink in Spain, just a mouthful or three — or raciones, larger small dishes that are more suited to sharing. In some cases you can have either size, though many only come in racione size.
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As well as the aforementioned squid and black pudding, we had patatas bravas, fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce, which could have done with a bit more sauce but were otherwise simple and effective.
The Pistou Manchego was a delicious stew of Mediterranean vegetables in a rich tomato sauce, not dissimilar to ratatouille. Garlic mushrooms were fried in olive oil with plenty of garlic (you can have these with or without chorizo). Spanish omelette was served hot — you sometimes get it at room temperature in Spain, but I wonder whether they think this would be a bit outlandish for English tastes.
It was a small, whole omelette, about half an inch thick. People have different and widely varying views about the perfect tortilla, but I like mine to be a slice from a thicker omelette – almost more of a pie than an omelette, really.
We also ordered some bread to mop up all the delicious juices, and the bread came with some aioli, aka garlic mayonnaise, for dipping.
The wine list is quite reasonable and includes a house wine and a house rioja either by the bottle or carafe. We had a half–litre of the red rioja, which was under �10. There are plenty of other options including sangria and sherry, which goes very well with tapas.
The food prices, too, are quite reasonable, with most raciones priced between �4 and �6. We had plenty of food and a half litre of wine between us for less than �20 a head, though it is possible to spend more. There is also a cheaper meal deal available at lunchtimes.
The decor gives a sense of being in sunnier places without feeling overdone. We visited on a Thursday evening and the restaurant was pleasantly bustling - just the sort of atmosphere you want in a tapas restaurant.
Our bill arrived with two shot glasses of an unidentifiable creamy liqueur, a bit like Baileys but with even more cream.
It was a nice touch to round off an evening which had delivered everything we asked of it — even if the squid might not feel the same way.
Fye Bridge Street
t Open: Mon-Sat 12pm-2.15pm/6.30pm until late, Sun 6.30pm until late.
t Vegetarian option: Plenty
t Wheelchair access: Yes