If you are ready to take on tapas this winter, then exciting new restaurant Roko Tapas offers an escape from the cold.
Located in the heart of Morpeth, one wouldn’t expect a haven of Spanish cuisine in a town laden with Italian eateries and fast food.
After sitting down to a cocktail, I wasn’t ready for the sheer amount of choice cuisine on offer either.
A novice to tapas, I was relieved to see paella, a name I know, on the menu; but house favourites include interpretations on English dishes.
The barriga de cerdo is a succulent belly pork number, topped with a creamy dolcelatte sauce, and even features crackling, so you’ll feel right at home.
A fried and battered cod dish appears twice on their extensive menu, one served with good old tartare sauce. If you aren’t feeling particularly adventurous, you won’t be feeling homesick.
I was keen to find out what a Spanish take on black pudding would be. “Our black pudding is filled with rice and onions, as well as pigs’ blood, giving it a sweetness,” manager Dean Sergeant informs me. “It’s a bit of a delicacy in Spain.”
The main star of the show, of course, is the fish.
Gambas, meaning king prawns, are offered in a variety of sauces, both spicy and with garlic. A house-made salmon fishcake, in which Dean takes particular pride, could be the real sovereign.
“Everything is made fresh and in-house.” Dean states firmly. “The philosophy of this restaurant is authenticity, because without this we wouldn’t have an authentic tapas dining experience.”
I asked him about his experience in bringing this to Morpeth.
“You meet people who have a knowledge of tapas, and you meet people who just think we’re a bar, hence tapas bar. But we’re trying to introduce a new way of eating for people in Morpeth, a bit of culture!”
Roko Tapas moves into territory that has been contested by a number of eateries over the past few years.
A high ceiling and incredible space to stretch your legs in the restaurant made me wonder what kind of atmosphere they are going for.
“Morpeth is a diverse town, and people want different things. That’s why we try to go for a laid-back atmosphere mid-week and do things a little more formally when the weekend arrives.
“Also, we like the building’s size because the acoustics are incredible. And we’re going to build that by introducing live music.”
I asked Dean about the feedback of his Morpeth diners. “Many of our regulars have a house in Spain. They come home to Morpeth and miss the taste of tapas (and sangria!). Our tastebuds carry a lot of memory and we try to restore that for them when they’re feeling the cold. So far so good!”
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Patatas bravas (classic roast spicy potatoes with homemade tomato sauce)......£3.99
Pincho de pollo (marinated chicken breast skewer, herbs and salsa verde)......£3.99
Barriga de cerdo (slow-cooked belly pork pieces, drizzled with creamy dolcellata sauce, topped with crispy crackling)......£3.99
Albondigas con tomate (meatballs with homemade tomato sauce)......£4.99
Paella de marisco (mixed seafood paella)......£5.99
Bacaloa con xanfaina (fried battered cod fillet and roasted Mediterranean veg)......£5.99
Mejillones al vino blanco (pan-fried mussels with garlic, parsley, white wine and cream)......£4.99
Seta al ajillo (garlic mushroom and white wine)......£2.99
Flatbread and hummus (chargrilled flatbread with homemade hummus)......£3.99
Queso de cabra (grilled goat’s cheese with aubergine garnish and onion marmalade)......£4.99
Tortilla de patatas (classic Spanish omelette with onions and potatoes)......£3.99
Croquetas depescado (salmon fishcake served with mint yoghurt and sweet chilli sauce)......£4.99
Roko Tapas is located on New Market, Morpeth. It’s opening hours are noon to 2pm and 5pm to 9pm. Ring 01670 207427 or visit www.rokotapasbar.co.uk