Antonio’s Spanish restaurant is now seven years old and in that time the décor has remained more or less the same.
The welcome is also unchanged. Antonio is a very gregarious, charming host who thrives on his diners’ company. He possesses a genuine ability to extend the kind of hospitality you might be offered in his own home.
The Spanish flag hangs from the ceiling of this wood and red brick town centre restaurant. One wall is devoted to Spain via posters and photos, while another pays homage to Fareham, his adopted home, with large photos of the town’s big freeze last year.
The bar is the hub of Antonio’s empire, with many wines, all from Spain, lining this area. Tables are white-clothed and real napkins, not paper, add to the experience.
Come here for simple, traditional Spanish food cooked by a Spanish chef.
Try gambas with garlic and chilli, grilled sardines or grilled goats’ cheese with honey for starters.
Follow this with maybe a steak, calves’ liver or lamb shank with sauce; chicken breast with cheese; Serrano ham with a garlic and tomato sauce; fish, which may include cod with a spicy sauce.
Desserts include crêpes Suzette, baked apple with caramel, a Bailey’s crème brûlèe and Spanish cheeses. Starters are around £6-7, mains around £15-17, desserts £5-6.
Two vegetarian dishes are also on the menu, which includes many types of tapas: queso fritto (fried cheese); patatas bravas (potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce); albigondas (meatballs); Spanish tortilla; sardines; croquettes with either spinach, cheese or ham; marinated seafood; whitebait; fried squid; marinated seafood and dried, cured meats.
At lunchtime, choose four for £9.95 including a glass of wine and a dish of olives. There’s also a set lunch menu for £12.95 with a glass of wine thrown in.
In search of good tapas, my choices were those potatoes, the differing croquettes, fried squid and dried cured meats. First up, a basket of thickly-sliced bread and some olives. The former was a solid, dense, un-Spanish bread, the latter not the best quality.
The patatas bravas were nicely spiced, there were good, tasty, crunchy croquettes but the stars of the show were those dried cured meats. Nicely diverse, a chorizon, a thick type of chorizo, was excellent, as was the Serrano ham and a coarse salami, the type rarely found in the UK. The squid needed more time in hotter oil to really shine. An impressive glass of Tempranillo was served in a perfect, thin wine glass.
This was a pleasant lunch of value to raise flagging Christmas shopping spirits in a charming restaurant with an engaging, caring host.
My bill came to £9.95, not including a tip.
Antonio’s Restaurant, 20 West Street, Fareham PO16 OLJ
Open: Mon-Sat Noon-2pm for lunch and 6pm onwards for dinner. No tapas available Fri-Sat eves.
Food: Three (Out of five)
Excellent. Good space for wheelchairs.
How to get there: Follow signs to Fareham off the M27. Antonio’s is in West Street, by the bottom of the High Street. You’ll need to find a public car park.