I love eating tapas. When I dine out I always struggle to decide which main meal to order and it’s great to be able to order a selection of smaller dishes to choose from. I haven’t been to a decent tapas restaurant in a long time – not since I visited Portugal two years ago – so I literally jumped at the opportunity to visit 19 Mary Street in Porthcawl last Friday evening.
19 Mary Street is a bar and restaurant serving traditional Spanish tapas dishes with a unique twist, alongside a delectable cocktail range. The concept is centered upon “friends, tapas and cocktails”. Owner Alice Anthony grew up in Porthcawl and wanted to open somewhere with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, where people could come to have a good time. She has certainly managed that. Visiting on a busy Friday evening, the atmosphere was vibrant and bustling. Every table in the restaurant was full and the sound of laughter and chatter could be heard all around.
Modern and bright, the restaurant is decked out in shades of lime green, black and white. The centre piece is an ornate, black fireplace filled with logs, the number ’19’ hanging on the wall above in lights.
Most of the tapas dishes on the menu are prepared on site by 19 Mary Street’s chefs, although some of the finer produce is sourced directly from Spain.
As we pondered over the menu, I ordered a large glass of rosé wine (£5.50) while Sarah tried out the cocktail of the weekend, the Raspberry Collins; a combination of vanilla-infused vodka, Chambord and fresh raspberries, served long with ginger ale. Sweet and refreshing, this was garnished with an enormous whole raspberry.
To eat, we began with the warm bread selection (£3.75), served with Arbequina olive oil from Spain, rock salt, PX sherry balsamic (aged for no less than 15 years) and sun-dried tomatoes. Cut into squares, the bread was soft, fresh and flavoursome, consisting of three different varieties including red pepper and sun-dried tomato, walnut and blue cheese and sweet Spanish onion. The breads tasted delicious dipped into the olive oil, which was of an excellent quality and contained just the right amount of balsamic.
For our ‘main courses’, we ordered seven tapas dishes to share. The Curado (£2.75) were one of my favourites – small, ball-shaped croquettes of creamy Manchego cheese and Iberico ham, fried in golden breadcrumbs and served hot. These were tasty and more-ish and I’d definitely order them if I visited 19 Mary Street again (although perhaps all to myself, rather than to share!)
The Albondigas (£4.90) were just as good; lamb and mint meatballs in a freshly made, herby tomato sauce. They had plenty of bite to them, while the mint wasn’t too overpowering.
The crispy duck egg with chorizo (£4.90) really jumped out at us when we were browsing the menu, so just had to find out what it was like. Served runny, the egg was fried in golden breadcrumbs and paired with butter beans and onions in a rustic tomato sauce. I would never have thought of serving an egg with this kind of sauce, but it worked really well and there was an interesting variety of textures in the dish.
To say that I love prawns would be an understatement and so, for me, no trip to a tapas bar would be complete without munching on a prawn-based dish. Big and juicy, the tiger prawns (pictured below) were soaked in a light, buttery sauce flavoured with garlic and parsley (£5.25) and they tasted incredible.
Keeping with the seafood theme, we also opted for the salted cod with chorizo (£6.65). The cod was fresh and tender, with the perfect balance of saltiness, topped with crispy, fried chorizo and served with a salad of broad beans and julienned vegetables in a tomato-based sauce.
We thought we had better order some carbs to fill us up (as if we hadn’t ordered enough food already!) so we went for the patata bravas (£3.25), a traditional Spanish dish of deep-fried potato cubes, topped with a thick, slightly spicy tomato sauce (bravas) and a dollop of alioli. As far as patata bravas go, these were pretty good and the portion size was just right, too – not too much or too little. We could perhaps have done with a touch more alioli, though.
Not content with one carb-y dish, we had to go for the sweet potato fries (£2.95) as well. These tasted so good, I couldn’t stop eating them. I had to push the dish/mug towards Sarah as a way of warning her that if she didn’t eat some right then and there, she may never get the chance to. Served in their skins, the sweet potato ‘fries’ were cooked to perfection, with a crispy exterior and a sweet, fluffy interior. To describe them as fries is pretty inaccurate, though – they were much more like thickly cut, proper chips – and this is exactly how they should be, if you ask me!
As if the sweet potato fries weren’t tasty enough on their own, they also came with a small pot of aioli (like garlic mayonnaise, but with a lighter consistency and stronger flavour) for dipping.
After polishing off the warm bread selection and seven tasty tapas dishes, Sarah and I were feeling comfortably full. We had just about enough room left for dessert, but with the drive back to Cardiff ahead of us, we didn’t want to overdo it and end up feeling too lethargic so we opted to share the churros (£4.50) for dessert.
Wow! Just… wow! Served warm in a clay bowl on a wooden plank, the churros were formed from relatively thin loops of dough rather than the long, thick strips that usually seem to be the norm. Deep-fried and rolled in sugar, the churros were garnished with a large whole strawberry, the husk still intact so as to introduce colour to the dish. The final finishing touch was a small bowl of hot dark chocolate sauce for dipping. The churros were amazing and the portion was perfect for sharing; I think it may have been slightly too much for one person to eat alone.
My first visit to 19 Mary Street has been sensational. From the food and the service, to the atmosphere and the value for money, there is nothing I dislike about this place. In my five years (almost!) of food blogging, this is definitely one of the best restaurants I have ever come across and the thought of going back there genuinely fills me with excitement.
Looking to the future, 19 Mary Street has plans to begin offering accommodation from as early as the end of this year. Something tells me that this trendy, young tapas bar has a blindingly bright future ahead of it!
19 Mary Street
(01656) 771 991
I was invited to 19 Mary Street as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.