With the aptly named Storm Pablo lurking in the Atlantic and daylight saving hours having begun, many of us cannot help but pine for sunnier climes to get through the dark winter months.
However, if jetting off to the Canaries isn’t an option, diners can find their own taste of the Mediterranean in a quiet corner of St Pancras, Chichester.
With visiting grandparents once again on nappy duties we escape for the evening to sample the delights of the exotically named Viento De Levante.
Despite its lofty Tripadvisor ranking the restaurant proves surprisingly difficult to find. As a former geography teacher it’s always a little embarrassing to find yourself lost on a high street.
Google Maps to the rescue, we eventually locate the restaurant nestled in a small residential cul-de-sac.
No expansive windows or candescent lighting, the entrance is more akin to a conservatory extension than a top restaurant.
As Pablo flexes his muscles the wind propelling us through the door is more like a Cairngorm squall than the gentle Gibraltan breeze after which the restaurant is named. Let's hope the rest of our Mediterranean escape isn’t to prove such a contradiction.
While the weather outside is the very antithesis of Catalonia, the welcome we receive couldn’t be warmer.
We are immediately led to our seats and provided with a complimentary starter of cheesy garlic bread.
While the restaurant is in the cellar of an old English manor house the decor couldn’t be more Latin. The whitewashed walls, floral displays and profusion of pottery and ceramics create an ambience of a family hacienda in the Pyrenean foothills. Aside from the inclement weather, everything screams Spanish – even the life-sized matador and flamenco dancer adorning the toilet doors. As sangria starts to flow the setting has the transportive effect of teleporting diners to Mediterranean shores. However, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding – will the food follow suit?
As someone who lives by the menu mantra of ‘you make your choice and stick with it’ – much to the irritation of my dining companion – the concept of sharing, the very principle of tapas, doesn’t come easy to this diner. After much badgering I compromise with the order of two individual dishes and a further two to share.
I go for a Spanish sausage overload with an order of chorizo al vino – sausage and onions in a white wine sauce – and pollo Marbella – chicken, chorizo and peppers in a creamy paprika sauce. My companion opts for lamb meatballs and king prawns. To share, we go for patatas bravas – potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce – and pollo al ajilo – chicken in a garlic and white wine sauce. The cost of dishes ranges from £3.95 for meat and vegetarian options to £6.45 for seafood choices.
The chorizo is cooked to perfection with the right level of spice to tantalise the taste buds rather than an explosive overload on the palate, while the chicken melts in the mouth. Equally as important is that the undoubted quality does not compromise quantity.
Having flagrantly disregarded the menu warning of ‘our portions are larger than normal’ the increased pressure inflicted on my belt is clear evidence of my inflated belly. In typical Mediterranean fashion, after such a large meal it is time for our siesta – well as much as you can with a six-month-old. The obliging waitress calls for our taxi.
Pablo is now in full throttle, the illusion is broken as we make our way across the windswept car park. However, at least for a couple of hours, we enjoyed our Mediterranean moment.
Viento De Levante,
24 St Pancras Road, Chichester
Tel no: 01243 788700
Ratings (out of five)