It’s not often you go to a restaurant and can say that your group of diners managed to get through every single item on the menu.
But that’s exactly what my table of six achieved when we went to The Mill café, in the grounds of St Catherine’s Hospice, for its first ever Tapas Night.
As an employee of the hospice, I’m very familiar with the café, which is open to the public, and have enjoyed a few lunches and afternoon tea there in recent months.
But most of my party hadn’t been before, so I was interested to see what they’d make of it.
And I’m pleased to say they were all impressed.
The Mill is normally just open during the day, but will open on the last Friday of the month for the foreseeable future with a variety of themed nights planned – this first one being Spanish.
There were 14 dishes in total, ranging in price from £4 to £8, and we each ordered around three to four per person.
The pork belly cubes were the highlight for me, cooked perfectly so that the strong flavours really came out, complimented by arrocina beans and rosemary.
The onglet steak was also popular on our table, cooked medium rare and served with ‘patatas a lo pobre’ (fried potatoes). Onglet, we learned, is a little known cut of beef, and it was succulent and tender – very tasty!
In some cases, we weren’t quite sure what we were ordering as none of us understand Spanish, and a lot of the menu included words we didn’t recognise, but we got the gist, and the staff were happy to explain what individual dishes were when we asked.
We’re all pretty open-minded when it comes to food anyway, so were happy to let some of meal remain a surprise until it arrived on our table.
Another favourite across the board was the salt cod croquetas, which were large croquettes of potato and fish, served with a red pepper puree.
The monkfish with pita beans was also very good, served in a light broth with various vegetables, and other items we enjoyed included chargrilled artichokes, manchego rice, and patatas bravas (spicy potatoes).
The portions were just the right size, and although we worried we had ordered too much at first, we managed to finish the lot – and were even tempted enough to go for dessert.
Sticking with the tapas theme, The Mill’s pastry chef had prepared mini versions of his popular puddings, such as raspberry meringue, lemon and Seville orange polenta cake, and coffee and walnut roulade. There were six in total, and you could select three for £3.50.
Between the six of us, we sampled them all, and they went down a treat, with our plates and dishes left empty by the end.
The whole experience was certainly something a bit different, and we all tried foods we’d never had before, which is what eating out is all about.
The food and service was excellent, and all of the proceeds from the social enterprise go towards funding the specialised care of St Catherine’s Hospice, which is another great reason to visit The Mill.
The next evening the café will be open is Friday, May 27, when classical French cuisine will be served.
Booking is essential.