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Chorizo and chicken skewers El Sabio Tapas Bar & Restaurant Review – From the outside El Sabio looks relatively small but don't be deceived. We entered around 8pm on a Tuesday evening and were struck by a restaurant that seemed to roll out endlessly before us. The decor cleverly evokes an atmosphere of Spain and memories of holidays past. Several spacious dining areas, each differing slightly in decor, effortlessly create a variety of surroundings and moods. Sections of the restaurant are open, some very intimate, and there is a large, well kept garden, dining, and smoking area overlooking a picturesque Roman built canal. The rushing water invites many water birds and is so clear you can see the riverbed and water movement across the foliage – fish have been spotted too.

Drinks – El Sabio offers a mix of just about every liquid refreshment you can think of including Wine and Champagne, there is also a separate Spanish wine selection. We decided to get into a holiday spirit and start the evening with a glass of cold St Miguel lager outside in the sunshine by the river.

Help! – The menu comprises a mouth watering array of meat, crustaceans, fish and vegetarian tapas, paellas and platters. This was our first tapas dining experience so we had a dilemma. Do we order en masse or in courses? What is the right way to eat tapas?

Rabbit stew Decisions – Putting inexperience aside we sought much needed advice. Attila, the chef and owner, recommended his 'Rabbit Stew', Viki, Attila's wife, suggested we order three selections each and include 'Salmon Fishcakes' and 'Vegetable Paella', Gabriella recommended the 'Chorizo & Chicken Skewers'. The recommendations were duly ordered along with 'Croquetas de Pollo y Jamón Serrano' (chicken and Serrano ham croquettes) and 'Fritura Mixta' (deep fried, battered calamari, king prawns, swordfish and whitebait), to make up the six selections, plus 'Pan de Ajo con Queso' (garlic bread stuffed with mozzarella cheese) to accompany them.

Anticipation – We waited thinking: What did we order? Is it enough? What if it is too much? The moment of arrival came and a feast appeared before us.

Bread – The warm, freshly baked garlic baguette was easily enough for two and contained mozzarella giving it a delicious taste and texture.

Meat – The rabbit stew was tender, juicy and had a wonderful rich, thick sauce. The chorizo and chicken skewers had lovely chargrill flavours permeating the meat to perfection. The succulent chorizo, sourced from Valencia, was surprisingly unsalty. The chicken and ham croquettes were flavoursome with a crispy outside and soft, light inside.

Viki carrying tapas Fish Tapas – The battered fish portions and salmon fishcakes were cooked to perfection and 'The Suit' relished every mouthful – I had to be on guard duty lest he eat it all. The calamari was a treat, the trick being to eat it before it cools. The whitebait was light and the swordfish interesting. The platter was accompanied by a delicious lemon and garlic infused sauce which complemented everything nicely.

Paella – The vegetable Paella was excellent; it looked, smelt and tasted authentic, reminding me especially of Paella enjoyed in Spain. We did miss the fish and meat – but not much.

Desserts – We were unable to manage dessert but saw others receiving arrays of gorgeous tapas desserts, which comprises of a selection of 3 (see photo gallery above), definately trying these next time.

Click here to view the full El Sabio Menu    Click here for Vegetarian Menu

El Sabio lends itself to informal dining with finesse, enveloped in an atmosphere evoking far off Spanish lands. Despite the meaty nature of this review El Sabio is one restaurant Vegetarians should definitely try as it offers an excellent choice. The El Sabio team know their menu well; a Herculean effort given the number of dishes on offer.

Click here to visit the El Sabio Website

Verdict – If you fancy trying a wide range of interesting and delicious dishes in an engaging environment, whilst being looked after by a knowledgeable, friendly team, then El Sabio is well worth a visit. Our thanks for a lovely evening's dining go to everyone – together with our compliments to the Chef.

El Sabio Tapas Bar & Restaurant
60 Eastgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire.
Tel: (01962) 820233

Review by Paula & Richard 'The Suit' – July 2010