Tapas Tuesdays @ Salt & Malt: Review

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I realise I’ve been pretty quiet on the reviews front recently, but there’s a damn good reason for it. Our first baby was born at the end of January, and a combination of a low birth weight, a night in hospital to treat his jaundice, a week in hospital for me after I had a brain haemorrhage, and slow weight gain (him, not me), has meant that, in all honesty, I’ve been pretty shattered and not really wanting to go out.

Oscar’s now four months old, and I’m finally feeling more up to evenings that aren’t just spent collapsed on the sofa, wondering when he’s ever going to fall asleep…

So when I was invited to come and try the new Tapas Tuesdays offering at the original Salt & Malt restaurant by the Chew Valley Lake, I jumped at the chance: it’s a family-friendly place that’s nice and relaxed – perfect for our first evening meal out with a little person in tow.

Since I reviewed the main menu, the place hasn’t really changed: it’s still beautifully light and airy, with an expansive outdoor seating area and floor to ceiling windows that give a great view of the lake.

We were lucky enough to be sat at a table by the window – gratuitous baby photo below for evidence.

 

Salt & Malt - Baby and View

 

We were shown to our table (I have to say, the service we had was AMAZING throughout – and it wasn’t just because we were there to review Salt & Malt, I listened in to other tables being served too), where we were presented with the main menu, the specials menu and the Tapas Tuesdays menu, plus a bottle of tap water without us needing to ask.

While the main menu was tempting, we were all about the tapas – we were advised that three dishes each and some chips should do the two of us just fine. So that’s just what we did, making some tough decisions from an amazing looking menu that changes regularly, and which is competitively priced at £10 for 3 dishes.

 

Salt & Malt - Tapas Tuesdays menu

 

Each dish came out in true tapas style, as and when it was ready. We’d mentioned at the start that we’d be sharing everything, so we were surprised that we weren’t given side plates…

My favourite dish of the evening was undoubtedly the curried buttered brown shrimp. There was definitely plenty of butter in there and curry flavours that were rich rather than hot, not detracting from the flavour of the tiny, juicy shrimps. The thick slice of sourdough was nicely toasted – crisp on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle – and had soaked up some of the buttery sauce, giving it a truly decadent flavour.

 

Salt and Malt - Curried Brown Shrimp

 

We also loved the prawn dish – simple, maybe, but it allowed the quality of the seafood to shine through. Finger bowl at the ready, we dived into the generous portion of prawns which were perfectly juicy and tender and amazingly fresh, seriously tasty with the tangy Marie Rose sauce.

 

Salt and Malt - Prawns

 

The crispy cod cheek was a dish of two halves – while the cheek itself was beautifully cooked, huge and with a well-seasoned breadcrumb coating, the promised chorizo didn’t really shine through in the sauce, which was also pretty watery – leakage from the cod, we thought…

 

Salt and Malt - Cod Cheek

 

Being part Turkish Cypriot, it’s pretty hard for me to go to a restaurant that has halloumi on the menu and NOT order it. But despite my love of the salty, squeaky cheese, it was a bit disappointing. It was coated in a traditional chippy batter (the Salt & Malt batter is all gluten-free, FYI), which was delicious but which overpowered the cheese – and the halloumi could have done with a little longer in the fryer to allow for that beautiful change of texture. We loved the tomato and chilli jam, though: predominantly tomato flavours, but with a slight burst of heat at the back of the throat.

 

Salt and Malt - Halloumi

 

The chips arrived next, and there were no complaints from either of us: it was a generous portion of potatoes that were both crisp and fluffy, and with the requisite crispy, crunchy bits at the bottom.

 

Salt and Malt - Chips

 

I’m not an oyster fan, but oysters are to Chris what halloumi is to me. And he was glad he ordered it, proclaiming it to be one of the best he’s ever had. Plump, meaty, juicy and sweet, he’d have quite happily ordered more…

 

Salt and Malt - Oyster

 

Our final dish was the chilli squid: the combination of Thai flavours described on the menu definitely appealed. Sadly, it was a bit of a let down. The squid itself was deliciously chewy, but the accompanying ingredients could have been better balanced. The coriander was the first flavour to hit the palate, with not a great deal of shallot tang or chilli heat. Totally dominating the dish, though, were the crushed peanuts: around half the amount would have been better, plus they’d got a big soggy – and claggy in the mouth – by the time the plate arrived.

 

Salt and Malt - Chilli Squid

 

We may just be greedy, but we were both still a little hungry by the time we’d devoured the tapas…it would have been rude not to at least look at the dessert menu, right? And we both found something that appealed. For me, it was the white chocolate pannacotta with strawberries and hazelnuts (£5.50) – a delicious combination of flavours and textures, but the pannacotta texture was more like that of a crème brulée, and was topped with a slightly unappealing-looking skin.

 

Salt and Malt - Pannacotta

 

Talking of crème brulée, that’s precisely what Chris ordered from the main dessert menu: a cinnamon version, served with an apple sorbet (£5.50). The dessert that was presented almost resembled a deconstructed crumble, with the sorbet nestled on some sort of granola (and, he was pleased to see, in a recess on the board so it didn’t melt all over his trousers). The brulée was beautifully made, but he’d have preferred a stronger cinnamon flavour, and the apple sorbet was lovely and refreshing.

 

Salt and Malt - Creme Brulee

 

Overall, we enjoyed our evening at Salt & Malt: the Tapas Tuesdays menu had a decent range of different ingredients, origins and flavour combinations; the service was top notch; the views are outstanding and the ingredients – particularly the seafood – are clearly of amazing quality. Some of the dishes, though, just didn’t work – with a few tweaks, it could have been a truly outstanding meal.

 

Please note: our meal at Salt & Malt was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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