Restaurant reviews

La Oliva: Tasty tapas in Harrogate

Caroline tries out a new restaurant trying to make a splash in the Harrogate dining scene.

We were all set to go to Mirabelle, our favourite restaurant in Harrogate last night. I had bought my husband a gift voucher for Christmas and this was going to go a long way in paying for our night out. Alarm bells started ringing when the phone number was unobtainable and the website down.

To cut a long story short it turns out that Mirabelle closed less than three months after I bought the voucher and chef, Lionel Strub, has gone off to pastures new (The Clarendon Hotel at Hebden). I have emailed him to see whether he will honour the voucher at his new venture and will report back when I hear from him.*

Anyway, we decided to give Harrogate’s latest tapas restaurant, La Oliva, a whirl. Although it is slightly off Harrogate’s main restaurant circuit it is still just a short walk for us which is a huge plus, given the pressure on parking in the town centre.

We were greeted warmly by the young owner who explained that we could either eat in the comfortable bar or in the restaurant, which is what we opted to do. He recommended that we order five or six tapas to share and if we were still peckish we could order more.

Perusing the menu we were spoiled for choice and were glad to see that some of our favourite dishes from Spain were included. There was plenty on the wine list to tempt as well but we decided to have a litre of sangria to resurrect happy memories of drinking in the sun at Moreno’s in Nerja.

Foodwise we decided to order two small bruschetta with tomatoes, allioli and topped with roast pork, padron peppers, ham croquettes, garlic prawns and a rabbit dish. First out were the bruschetta and the peppers. The two small bruschetta were very tasty but I could have done with more of them. Perhaps I should have realised from the price that they would be bite size rather than anything more substantial! The peppers were beautifully done, fried in olive oil and served with sea salt.

Next we were served the croquettes and I’m happy to say that they were every bit as good as Malaga’s Meson Cortijo de Pepe with tasty Serrano ham, moist smooth potato and crispy golden bread crumbs.

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The garlic prawns were delicious too with just the right balance between garlic and chilli and plenty of oily juices to mop up with bread.

Finally came the Salmorejo rabbit which was marinated in white wine, herbs, paprika and olive oil. I have to confess that this was my husband’s choice (and after his earlier disappointment with the Mirabelle voucher I didn’t have the heart to insist on the Iberian pork cheeks which would have been my preference!).

I’m not a great fan of rabbit, often finding it too strong in taste and too much of a faff for little reward and tonight only served to reinforce my anti-rabbit bias. I’m pleased to say though that my rabbit-loving better half thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

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As a consolation prize I ordered another portion of the croquettes. The owner suggested I try the spinach and raisin ones but I was taking no chances – only the ham would do!

All the food was beautifully presented on stylish slate platters, the service from the young couple excellent, and the atmosphere relaxed. With the bill coming in at just under £50 we concluded that we had turned the evening to our advantage and will definitely be back to sample the pork cheeks!

*I am pleased to say that Lionel has now replied to my email confirming that all Mirabelle vouchers can be redeemed at his new restaurant in Hebden.

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