What our reviewer thought of Norwich’s sherry and tapas bar
- Credit: Archant
On the corner of the lively St Benendicts Street, Drake's bar blends sherry and tapas to bring Spanish flavours to the Lanes. Lauren Cope tried it out.
This is an independent review.
I think it's generally pretty hard to find a good tapas restaurant.
There are a lot of meatballs out of the microwave, soggy patatas bravas and hiked-up prices for downsized dishes.
Finding somewhere that serves delicious food, with high-quality ingredients, without costing an arm and leg can be a challenge.
So I was excited to try Drake's - owned by the same team as cocktail bar Hawthorn, which it sits below - which has settled in on the prominent corner spot of St Benedicts, the former home of Lust and Liquor.
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The menu is concise - it changes often, but on our visit it had three snack options, light bites to order while you wait, including smoked almonds (£2.50), olives (£2.50) and croquetas (£4), either chorizo or cod, served with saffron mayonnaise.
It's near-enough physically impossible to see a croquette and not eat it, so we ordered a chorizo portion, and as we grabbed a window table, five piping hot, crispy balls of goodness arrived.
The filling was smooth and meaty, the saffron mayonnaise a perfect dipping sauce. They were rich and satisfying and we wolfed them down.
We were advised to go for two dishes each off the main tapas menu - out of a possible eight - but, ever-greedy, we added an extra, bringing our total to five.
Some were Spanish classics, including patatas bravas (£3.50), a healthy portion of golden potato cubes with alioli and spicy tomato sauce, and chorizo in cider sauce with sourdough (£4), with salty chorizo and sweet cider, perfect for mopping up with bread.
They were joined by Drake's SFC, paprika fried chicken strips with small green chillis, alioli and hot sauce (£6.50). These were great - really crispy, pull-apart tender meat, nicely spiced and a decent portion, with four or five strips. They were polished off quickly.
We paid a little more for the beef shin and new potatoes, braised with paprika and sherry (£8), but it was the only disappointment of the night. While the meat was beautifully tender, the sauce was incredibly smokey, to the point where it was overwhelming and left some mouthfuls tasting a little bitter, as though it had been cooked with liquid smoke.
It it tickles your fancy it might still be worth adding to your order as the meat was beautiful, and the over-smokiness might have been a one-off.
But the highlight of our meal was the iberico rib, morcilla, apple and rhubarb bocadillo (sandwich) for £7.
Iberico, morcilla, bocadillo. In one bite. It would have been hard to go too far wrong, but it was beautiful, with the meaty, salty pork and unctuous morcilla, a Spanish blood sausage, pairing beautifully with the sweet tang of apple and rhubarb, brought together in a ciabatta roll.
Delicious. I could eat it for lunch every day.
The portion sizes were generous, and I can see that two a person might be enough, but we found it quite hard to whittle down what is a strong menu.
Drake's dessert menu is also concise, with the options of ice cream or, when we went, oloroso-spiked crema Catalana, a Sherry-flavoured Spanish-style creme brulée, served with strawberries and provided by Norwich dessert spot Figbar. A lovely sweet mouthful to end the night on.
Drake's is spacious, light and airy, with exposed brick and black and navy blue panelling. It feels modern and relaxed.
Easy going - we went on a Thursday evening so it was fairly quiet, with a few tables taken. You order at the bar, so there's no pressure.
Very friendly and attentive, not overwhelming. It's not table service, so it's up to you how quickly - or leisurely - you want to eat.
They have separate wine, sherry and cocktails lists, so there's plenty of choice, and there were three beer options on the menu. Cocktails are £8, and beers ranged from £4.30 to £4.60. I had the southwest fizz - a refreshing combination of gin, pear liqueur, fino - a type of sherry - cucumber, mint, lime and soda.
One step to get into the building, where there are plenty of tables. There are a few more seats to get down to another seating area. Of the eight tapas dishes, two were vegan and two more were vegetarian, with one of those able to be made vegan.
One clean toilet off the main restaurant area.
The usual city centre set-up - St Giles and St Andrews car parks are nearby, but if you're coming from further afield there are plenty of bus links and it's a 15-minute walk from the train station.
I was worried about how much this might set us back, but Drake's is actually pretty decent value for money. The £8 cocktails meant I only had one, but the £3.50 for a sizeable portion of patatas bravas felt reasonable, along with dessert for £4.50 and croquetas for £4. We had a cocktail, beer, croquetas, five main dishes and one dessert for £47.
The quality of the ingredients. They source their produce from a Spanish supplier in London, but nothing felt cheap or gimmicky.
I'd definitely recommend a visit. A good spot for a relaxed first date, or dinner with friends.
This is an independent review.