El Paso

August 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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El Paso is one of those places I’ve walked past upteen times, but never actually visited. Perhaps that’s due to its less-than-ideal location (at the bottom of the Moor, with a prime view across the current building work) and its shiny red plastic exterior, which is more takeaway than restaurant. But, after a couple of fantastic meals at London Road venues that don’t look much cop from the outside, we decided to give El Paso a whirl, and were very pleasantly surprised.

Behind the tacky exterior lies a cosy, welcoming little venue. We were braced for a worn-around-the-edges sort of place, but instead were greeted by neatly laid out tables, a funky little bar tucked away in the corner and a clear view into the kitchen, which is always a good sign.

And the surprises kept on coming: not only does El Paso have a cocktail menu, but our mojitos (£5.95) could have given snazzier venues like Browns and Mud Crab a run for their money. They were certainly a notch above the mojitos we had at ultra-modern Revolution the previous week – who’d have thought it??

True, they were sweeter than your traditional mojito, but they went down such a storm that we were on our second round before we’d finished weighing up the menu. El Paso has the full range of Mexican and Italian nosh on offer: crespelle dishes, enchiladas, burritos, chimichanga, paella, chilli con carne, lasagna, bolognese, pizza, and seafood dishes, including swordfish for those feeling adventurous. As lovers of both Mexican and Italian, we had a tough time picking just one meal, but finally gave the waiter our orders and, tums rumbling, waited for our grub.

And waited.

And waited.

Despite being one of only two parties in the restaurant, it was a good forty minutes before our food arrived. We could see the chef preparing our meals from scratch in the adjoining kitchen, but forty minutes is longer than anyone should have to wait for their dinner in a next-to-empty restaurant. If you visit El Paso during peak dining hours, make sure you don’t arrive as hungry as we did.

I plumped for the Mexican side of El Paso’s double-whammy Mexican/Italian menu, and ordered a veggie burrito (£8.95). My pair of fat, cheese-slathered burritos were served with a mountain of yellow rice covered with fistfulls of corriander. The coriander gave the rice a freshness I wasn’t expecting, while the burritos were absolutely stuffed with the usual suspects plus something I hadn’t encountered in a veg burrito before: spinach. The spinach not only gave the filling a unique colour, but also a really different flavour, with the fiery spices and cooling cheese completing this flavour-packed dish. Quite simply one of the freshest and most interesting-tasting burritos I’ve ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

After the taste sensation of the burrito and herby rice, the side salad was a complete let down. It was as bland as pre-packaged supermarket fare. To make matters worse, the El Paso staff brought us an extra portion of salad to share, which included the bonus prize of a stray piece of cling-film. The bowl it came in was also stained, as though it had been used for serving sauce-based dishes in the past. It may not have been dirty, but this bowl should have been bleached, or thrown out rather than reused as a salad bowl.

Moving on from this salad-related disaster and onto the star of the meal: El Paso’s paella (£10.00). This jaw-dropper was faultlessly presented with decorative shell-on king prawns and a ring of mussel shells arranged around the edge of the plate. A generous sprinkling of herbs, and you’re onto a winner even before you’ve taken a bite.

But what about the taste? The shell-on king prawns didn’t just have the visual wow-factor; they were succulent and perfectly cooked, and the rice was a treasure-trove of seafood: melt-in-the-mouth squid, small prawns and mussel meat, with a little chicken thrown in for good measure. A seafood lover’s paradise.

Our bill came with a few complimentary chocolates, but if El Paso were trying to soften the blow of the bill with sweets, they needn’t have bothered: we’d had our fill of fresh, tasty and high-quality grub for a very reasonable price.

After such a satisfying meal, it’s easy to play down El Paso’s shortcomings – the bland side salad, the less than spotless salad bowl, the missing locks on the ladies’ loo, and the shabby, empty function room you have to walk past on your way to the aforementioned lock-less loo. It’s this lack of attention to detail that makes El Paso a rough-around-the-edges find, rather than something really special. Fantastic food, surprisingly good cocktails and reasonable prices – but frustratingly, this place could do better.

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Revolution

August 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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Located in the snazzy West One Plaza, Revolution may make you think of vodka shots (in thirty homemade flavours, no less) rather than food, but one look at the menu shows Revolution have some serious food ambitions. Sunblushed tomato, asparagus and pea linguine, summer mezze board platters, and plenty of pricey tapas – no bargain beer and a burger deals here! So, keeping an open mind, we headed to Revolution for a midweek treat (and a few midweek voddies, of course!)

Inside, Revolution Sheffield is an aircraft hanger of a place, with floor-to-ceiling windows, shiny wooden surfaces, oceans of room between the assorted tables and booths, and an ultra-modern bar of LED lights and glittering booze-bottles. Decor-wise, it feels like a trendy nightclub – not your usual venue for a spot of supper. Keeping an open mind, we settled into a booth and ordered a round of mojitos (£6.50) which tasted too much of soda water, but we ploughed ahead, slurped down our cocktails and ordered some tapas to start: homemade potato wedges with dips (£4.95.)

The chunky potato wedges arrived with the skins on, just the way we like them, but the accompanying sour cream dip was strangely runny and tasteless – disappointing. Thankfully, Revolution redeemed themselves with the sweet chilli dip, which had a fierce kick. As a spice fan, I scrubbed the sweet chilli bowl clean, but if you can’t take the heat you might find the sweet chilli dip a painful ordeal.

Appetites duly piqued, we wasted no time ordering our mains, which arrived in double-quick time. My Salmon and King Prawn Linguine (£8.95) looked promising, as I was presented with a bowl full of linguine and creamy sauce, topped with a generous portion of smoked salmon.

The white sauce was refreshingly light without skimping on taste and, mixed up with a forkful of linguine and assorted veg (firm asparagus, fiery rocket and peas to be precise) it was delicious. The smoked salmon was the highlight for me, delivering a hit of seriously strong, salty deliciousness, but I was disappointed by how overcooked the king prawns were.

On the whole, a flavour-packed dish of perfectly-cooked veggies, a light but tasty sauce, and plenty of seafood, although at £8.95 Revolution are definitely being cheeky with their prices. To put it into perspective, my linguine was roughly the same price as a vegetarian pasta dish or Spaghetti Ragu at Strada.

Since we were in a vodka bar, we just had to sample Revolution’s special vodka glaze, and ordered the intriguing Revolution Vodka Pizza (£7.95). This thin and crispy pizza wasn’t mean with the toppings: chorizo, goat’s cheese and mozzarella with sweet chilli peppers, fresh rocket and the aforementioned vodka-glazed chicken, finished off with a drizzle of tart balsamic vinegar. Thin pizzas are easy to overcook, but the Revolution staff avoided this pitfall and sent out a perfect thin and crispy pizza. The vinegar drizzle in particular was a clever touch, giving the pizza extra bite.

Which brings us neatly onto the bill, and our major issue with Revolution – the price. Not only is the food expensive, but the steep booze prices bump up the bill even further. Even if you stick to pints all night, expect to feel the pinch. The surroundings are top-notch and the food is tasty with a few quirky options on the menu and quality ingredients used throughout, but there’s no escaping the fact that Revolution feels like the sort of place you’d pop into for a bite to eat on a whim, rather than somewhere you’d book in advance and look forward to – and the prices don’t reflect that. Good food, modern surroundings, but ultimately, the cheque was a bit of a stinger!

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