When you phone up to book a table at a restaurant and find all the Fridays and Saturdays for the next few months are full up, your expectations are high.
Thankfully, Sant Yago in Clarendon Road, Southsea didn’t disappoint.
Described as the ‘quirkiest tapas and cocktail bar in Southsea’, it offers contemporary tapas catering for veggies, vegans, coeliacs, carnivores, big eaters and small appetites – and, according to its website, chef Jon works with the finest local suppliers.
The menu offers a range of different dishes, from baked Camembert to braised pig cheeks with caramalised leek and onion and creamy wholegrain mustard sauce.
As there were just the two of us, we decided to go for five dishes and were told by the helpful waitress that if we wanted any more we only had to ask.
Dishes range in price, with paprika crisps at £3 up to £15 for the meat board or £7.50 for the pan-seared tuna steak or venison stew.
Wanting a mix of what the menu has on offer, we picked the calamari (£5.25), smoked mackerel salad (£5.25), grilled halloumi skewers (£5.50), slow cooked rib meat (£6.75), and seasoned fried potatoes (£3.50).
The dishes are brought out when cooked and first to the table was the calamari, which consisted of milk-poached squid rings, dusted in spiced flour with a garlic mayo to dip.
The batter was light and crisp while the squid rings were tender to eat.
The rest of our dishes seemed to come out in quick succession.
On first glance we were both a little concerned that maybe we had under ordered due to the portion size.
But half way through the meal we both agreed that there was more than enough and another dish may have been too much.
The grilled halloumi skewers with balsamic glaze was the perfect mix of sweet and salty, while the slow-cooked rib meat pulled from the bone in the house BBQ sauce was moreish.
The meat was so tender and the sauce so full of flavour that the small dish it came out in was deceiving. It just seemed to keep coming, forkful after forkful.
It also worked well with the seasoned fried potatoes, which come with either a tangy tomato sauce or garlic mayo. We opted for the mayo.
Very similar to the Spanish favourite patatas bravas, the potatoes are cooked so that they are crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside.
Although be warned – while the garlic mayo goes well with the potatoes, if you are on a first date or have an important interview the next day, give it a miss. It certainly packs a punch.
The only thing we were slightly disappointed with was the smoked mackerel with potato salad, spinach, rocket and herb oil dressing.
While the fish was cooked really well and worked with the leaves, the potato salad consisted of cold squares of potato in a really uninspiring and bland sauce.
The other dishes we went for were packed with flavour whereas this one, our attempt to be healthy, fell a little flat.
However, this would not stop me going back and the owners have also recently opened Old Tom’s in Castle Road serving small plates and cocktails.
We dined on a Thursday night and many of the tables were already full of people eating and drinking cocktails.
The atmosphere even early evening was buzzing and I would be intrigued to see what it was like on a Friday or Saturday when every table is booked out.
Our bill came to £33.25 including a bottle of San Miguel and a pineapple and gin fizz mocktail.
Tel: (023) 9217 9636
(ratings out of 5)