Alley Olé, Norwich, restaurant review: ‘For the indecisive, it’s a dream’
- Credit: Archant
It's probably fair that I start this review with a disclaimer: My mum's better half is a Spanish chef and I've eaten my way around a decent chunk of Spain (whether that makes me the best or worst reviewer for this restaurant, I don't know).
For the indecisive, Alley Olé is a dream - its menu is simple, and largely split into two: Chicken (quarter, half or whole) and pintxos.
With a day of work behind us and an early shift looming on the horizon, we barely sat down before we made a beeline for the bar, where its pintxos sit under a heat lamp.
At lunch time there's a pintxos platter, but at dinner it's more of a pick and mix affair - a good strategy, as we greedily grabbed far more than we'd have ordered off a menu.
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The meatballs in tomato sauce and calamari were fine, but the stand-out dishes were the chicken croquettes (up there with some of the best I've tried in Spain) and the Spanish tortilla, which, despite a few minutes under the heat lamp, was light, creamy and hugely moreish.
A small pintxos of bread topped with serrano ham and a fried egg received a rave review across the table, while the aioli, though thicker in texture than the norm, was lovely, with a good, garlicky kick.
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Already on our way to full, we shared a half chicken, which was juicy, flavoursome and plenty for two, and couldn't pass on the patatas bravas, which were crispy and covered with an excellent spicy, tomato sauce.
We were up for trying the crema Catalana - a Spanish crème brûlée of sorts - and tarta de Santiago - an almond cake - but a problem with the fridge/freezer meant they were off the menu. Would be intrigued to hear your thoughts.
There's a menu of traditional cocktails, wines, beers and soft drinks. I had a fruity glass of Tempranillo and my date chose a Cruzcampo, one of a handful of Spanish beers on offer.
With students sharing pintxos at the bar and friends relishing a lazy dinner, Alley Olé certainly feels relaxed.
The décor is modern and clean, table set-up is simple and the restaurant has three unofficial zones - one for drinks and a bite to eat, another for a sit-down meal and a third for take aways.
Drinks, desserts and rotisserie chickens are ordered at the table, but for its pintxos - tapas - it's time to head to the bar and take your pick.
It's casual and easy-going - and would sit comfortably alongside a Madrid taberna.
Friendly and helpful. Our waitress was enduring the utter misery of her first shift and had some problems with the till, but was apologetic and sweet. If you're reading this - it does get better...
Tucked down Bridewell Alley, you'll struggle to find free parking - St Andrews multi-storey, Duke Street or Castle Mall are in walking distance.
Reasonable - tapas are £2.65 each, the chicken ranges from £5 to £16 (much cheaper for take away) and sides - patatas bravas and salads - sit between £4 and £6.
Its week day deal will give you a quarter chicken with patatas bravas or salad for £6 and there's two-for-one cocktails and wine between 5pm to 7pm.
The atmosphere - it's fun, laid back and friendly. The serve-yourself pintxos concept is a novel addition to Norwich's restaurant scene, and one which - judging by the full tables on a Wednesday night - is catching the eye of students and city workers in particular.
The food might not be straight off the streets of San Sebastian, but this is a fun, casual eatery with a great atmosphere and some stand-out dishes. Though it was lively come 7pm, I'd recommend an afternoon visit, when the lunch break crowd make the trip from their desks. Grab a few pintxos, share some chicken, order a round of cocktails and unwind over a leisurely meal.
This is an independent review.
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