After a long and stressful week in work – made even more difficult to bear thanks to the persistent, glorious sunshine – the boy and I were invited to a night of complimentary dining at Esteban, snugly situated on Liverpool’s bohemian strip – Lark Lane. I could think of nothing I’d like to do more than eat Mediterranean food with my best friend, so we gratefully accepted the invitation.
Nothing has been overlooked at Esteban. Upon entering, you can’t help but admire the beautifully vibrant decor, which almost convinces you you’ve actually been transported to the Med. We were promptly greeted by the manager, who guided us to our table overlooking the street below. We were presented with menus and a large jug of Sangria, which was a lovely and warmly welcomed touch. The rich and rosy tones of the wine were perfectly complimented by the sweetness from the slices of apple and lemon – it was a real treat. Our waitress for the evening explained Esteban prides itself on its Sangria – they achieve a unique taste as a result of blending Spanish wine with their very own, top-secret spirit mix. It was abundantly clear from the offset that this was a restaurant that took pride in every single element of its service.
Whenever Michael and I travel, we like to eat as the locals do. So, we decided to go with the chef’s recommendations, pursuing an authentic Mediterranean dining experience. To share, we were served a portion of Pan Catalan; toasted bread smothered in a hearty helping of sun-dried tomatoes, coriander and garlic. Think bruschetta – but better. The sun-dried tomatoes presented a rich, creamy texture bursting with a full-bodied taste, whilst the garlic and coriander perfectly complimented the bold flavours with a distinct, vivid kick. The chef recommended that we order a couple of dishes each, as this plate-sharing is common practise in the Med. We were presented with an incredible tapas platter, known to Esteban as Plato de la Casa. This consisted of sliced parma ham, salami, mixed olives, manchego cheese and a small dish of tomato chutney. Sure, it sounds like a pretty standard tapas platter. But it was absolutely gorgeous, we’d definitely recommend giving it a try. It would be a perfect light lunch if you were just passing by Lark Lane and fancied a quick, light bite. We also ordered the Paella de Pollo; an arborio rice paella with chicken pieces and seasonal mixed vegetables. The portion was generous, but so delicious that we immediately regretted not ordering one each. We had completely neglected to consider the possibility that we would both favour one particular dish..so the battle for the biggest portion was well and truly on. With succulent pieces of fresh chicken and flavoursome vegetables boasting wonderful contrasts, the dish was a definite favourite for the evening..and something that we would both recommend. I have since tried to master the dish at home, but it just isn’t the same. We ordered a portion of Pollo Moruno; tender chicken kebabs delicately marinated in Esteban’s unique blend of herbs and spices. The chicken, served with a dish of sweet chilli sauce, was chunky, flavoursome and oh so tasty.
As my fellow foodie and I are lovers of all things hot and spicy, we couldn’t resist ordering Jalapenos Rellenos. The dish consisted of jalapeno chillies stuffed with luxurious cream cheese, deep fried until crispy and golden, served with a generous helping of smoky barbecue sauce..and what a sensation they were. The combination of spice from the jalapenos, the creamy taste from the cream cheese and the smoky hues of the barbecue sauce offered an interesting, strange, yet exquisite taste. We would certainly recommend this dish to the more adventurous diners out there!
Finally, we ordered a portion of the classic Bruschetta, which always seems somewhat obligatory when ordering from a tapas menu. Topped with a selection of vine tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and feta cheese..all bound together with olive oil, they did justice to tradition. Although there was only one piece each, the ciabatta was fresh, chunky, and just the right amount to complement our other dishes. The fact that I ended up with tomato on the end of my nose only serves to highlight the generosity of the toppings (and is nothing at all to do with my struggles to maintain a sophisticated demeanour).
Once we had polished off our tasty mains, the staff politely asked if we would like to see the dessert menu. It’s a rare occasion that me and my cuisine compadre order dessert, but we simply could not resist the tempting treats on offer. That, and..well..Friday is as good an excuse as any!
I ordered the Esteban Mess, which much like Eton Mess, was a heavenly mix of fresh strawberries, whipped cream, crushed meringue and vanilla ice cream..and it was truly delicious. My partner ordered the mixed berry cheesecake, which was served with raspberry puree and vanilla ice cream. As with my dessert, his portion was generous, yet the fresh ingredients left him feeling fully satisfied, and not bloated at all.
We were truly impressed with the sincere hospitality, authentic atmosphere, and above all astounding quality of the food and drink available to diners at Esteban. We enjoyed a wonderful, authentic taste of Mediterranean cuisine, and will be sure to venture into Esteban for another Friday night treat very soon.
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Until next time…