UPDATE FEB ’16: We’ve eaten here a couple of times since this review and the interior is much improved, it now feels like a nice place to sit and eat a meal and is no longer stark. Service is also better with the new front of house manager doing a great job. Original review is below…
Amantia is the latest in a line of Tapas joints to open in recent years and sits next to one of the busiest restaurants in town serving sharing dishes and small plates – the much applauded Bodega. I was therefore expecting it to be rammed full of people on Easter Saturday at 6pm given that, surely, the hordes of people who get turned away from Bodega because it’s too busy (it’s a lot, and I’m regularly one of the departing disappointed) would simply go there instead. But no, there were only about six people in the large restaurant. Why, I wondered? Was this a bad sign?
I strongly suspect that people are put off by the aesthetics. The frontage is a bit stark with lettering that can easily be missed, a grey colour on a cream painted background that needs another coat or two. The unfinished feel continued inside with bare cables hanging from walls, a missing staircase bannister, and large unframed photos not quite perfectly hung. I’m not sure whether it was the black too-high ceiling, the small tables, the colour scheme (purple!), or the harsh lighting, but it felt uninviting. Now I was worried.
A delightful waitress made us feel at ease. I’m fairly sure she was Spanish, otherwise she was doing a very good Spanish accent. There were four of us eating tapas and the waitress took us through some dishes and advised us how much we needed and told us which was her favourite. She also convinced us to try the signature gin cocktails. We tried an Apple & Cinnamon gin and tonic and also a Strawberry one (£6.50), which were both very tasty. I didn’t realise that G&T was particularly Spanish but apparently in recent years these “gintonics” as they’re known have taken off in Spain. Gintonic bars have sprung up that serve these refreshing flavoured and spiced G&Ts in large balloon glasses. They were moreish so I can see why they’re popular. We also had some spanish beers – pints of Alhambra, and bottles of Estrella.
So I had ascertained by now there was no problem with the service nor the drinks. How about the food then? We had manchego with honey and almonds and a red pepper dip (£5.95), cured meats (£9.95), calamari (£6.95), Rioja cooked chorizo (£6.50), meatballs (£5.95), Spanish omelette (£4.95), aubergine chips (£5.95), black pudding and goats cheese pastries (£6.50), salt cod and mushroom croquettes (£5.95), and aubergine chips (£5.95). It was all good quality and I’d say it was all prepared well, and that the calamari and chorizo were very good. I don’t think anything was outstanding. Given the price point though I don’t think anyone could complain about amount or quality.
The tapas plates were all quite safe dishes I think, nothing too adventurous. Then again I’m used to the excellent Comida in Harborne whose tapas is as good as any you’ll eat. Despite not being thrilled by the décor of Amantia I will go back and try the larger plates which seemed a little more exciting including octopus salad, Iberian pork in a cider sauce, and salmon steak with orange and taragon. I’m mildly confused why a Spanish restaurant has on its menu a Greek salad but I’m trying not to worry about it.
So in summary: décor a bit weird and homespun, food good, service good, price point reasonable. Give it a go!