Nicholsons, Albert Road, Southsea | Restaurant review
Following the days of over-indulgence during the festive period I think I could be forgiven for believing authentic Spanish tapas would be a lighter choice to start the new year.
This is my conviction as I venture to Nicholsons tapas restaurant in Southsea one post-new year's evening.
However, the enticing assortment of dishes on offer – coupled with my own greed – leads my foray into Mediterranean food to be just as gluttonous as over Christmas.
Situated at the far eastern end of Albert Road, the recently refurbished venue is set apart from some of the hustle and bustle that surrounds the busy pubs and eateries closer to Southsea's centre.
But despite this, and despite the time of year, the restaurant is still busy with customers when I arrive with my friend – some enjoying the range of food on offer and others are there for the bar, sipping away at cocktails.
Having not been there prior to its renovation I have nothing to compare the surroundings to.
However, my friend assures me it is much more welcoming now.
It is certainly trendy, fairly minimalist while managing to remain cosy.
Simple wooden tables are used by diners and I am drawn to the assortment of lamps and fairy lights around the venue.
I can see why the bar is popular as well – there's a vast array of every kind of spirit and wine you can think of.
And, as hoped, the popularity of Nicholsons is well-founded.
As soon as we take a table a member of the friendly staff asks for our drinks order. We decide to treat ourselves and I choose a French martini (£7.95) and my friend orders a Pinkster Gin and tonic (£4.45).
We take sips of these as we scour the menu, which is extensive to say the least. In the end we order the vegetarian homemade pate and dips (£8.95) to start.
Mushroom and blue cheese pate, red pepper hummus and spinach and white bean dip are served up with a selection of bread, olives and pickles. Every dip is delicious.
Even though I don't like mushrooms I enjoy the pate and we both agree the hummus is the most tasty.
When it comes to the main, we find it difficult to rein it in. There are so many delicious-sounding choices.
Luckily we agree on many of the same options so we each get to try plenty.
For me the star dish is the empanada de queso (£5.95) – fried parcels of goat's cheese in filo pastry.
It comes as two separate parcels with a serving of cranberry sauce. The goat's cheese is deliciously creamy and tangy at the same time, and its flavours are perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the cranberries.
The pastry is light and not greasy at all.
We also enjoy what I would class as a staple of Spanish tapas, the patatas bravas (£4.65). The spicy bravas sauce is the best I've tasted, and the potatoes are light and fluffy.
My friend chooses something I've never tried before – pimentos del padron (£4.95). These are tiny green peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. They are surprisingly tasty and come in a generous portion which we finish.
Another standout dish is the berenjenas gratinadas (£5.25), which is layers of sauteed aubergine in a homemade tomato sauce with three-cheese gratin. Aubergine has honestly never tasted so good.
It's worth mentioning that Nicholsons also offers plenty of meat and fish dishes, non-tapas meals and daily specials.
We leave well-fed and looking forward to a return visit. And it's safe to say we effectively ruined our resolve to cut back on the calories in January.
Nicholsons, Albert Road, Southsea
(023) 9281 5222
Ratings (out of five):