Last week I hot-footed it over to the north-westerly corner of Cumbria to sample the tapas on offer by continental restaurant, delicatessan and gluten-free gurus, Shill’s of Cockermouth.
I don’t think twice about jumping in the car and driving north of the county. Not only is it my duty as Welly raconteur of all things delish and Cumbrian but hubby’s entire family reside in and around this oft-forgotten buzzy market town. It never ceases to amaze me that on mentioning my husband’s provenance to Kendalian folk (be it hairdresser, neighbour, gym acquaintance etc) more often than not I will receive the retort “never been there…” or “ooh it’s miles away”.
Given that the average commute of a Londoner is well over an hour and a half, Cockermouth is truly just a hop, skip and a jump and in my (maybe) biased opinion, also has a thriving population dining out on food, much of which is simply not available (yet) here in Kendal. I’m talking Sushi (Fyne Fish) and a dedicated vegetarian restaurant (Quince & Medlar) to name just a few pioneering northern establishments.
Nick and Wendy Shill’s bright and breezy tapas restaurant has just had a makeover courtesy of Kendal-based interior designers The Route ID (obviously creatives do travel). Based above his delicatessan and shop below, Shill’s is the perfect place to meet up with friends for drinks and grab a bite to eat. Relaxed and easy, the new modern vibe lends itself to informal drinks at the bar and laid-back dining.
The restaurant is open Thursday to Saturday only with a speciality focus on world tapas. I took my sister-in-law as my plus one (she’s no stranger to Shill’s so knew she’d like the treat). To make it easy, we ordered a surprise selection leaving it to our server to pick out a variety of tapas off the menu. It was the right choice; she came back with six dishes across a wide spectrum. From traditional Spanish gambas a la plancha to home-made hummus and exotic chicken laksa curry we certainly had a taste sensation before us.
I love traditional tapas but there’s nothing better than mixing up a selection of tasty foods internationally. Why not share your palate with hoi sin sauce pork fillet together with Italian mozzarella balls? If variety is the spice of life then the mix of punchy flavours and quality dishes here at Shills definitely ticks all boxes.
But not everyone wants such variety; tapas after all are not to everyone’s tastes. In an effort to satisfy more diners, Nick and Wendy are just about to launch a regular three course menu. Consisting of straightforward classics such as rump steak and Cumbrian sausage, this foodie duo will soon offer an extension to their successful tapas selection, appealing to a more traditional eater. Opening just three nights a week means that the restaurant can experiment with different dishes, offering even more variety and attracting a wider clientèle.
For me however, I’ll stick with the tapas. It’s rare to find a Cumbrian eatery with such an extensive, continental offering. There is a rumour, however that a tapas bar is about to open very shortly in Kendal. Well, who would have thought the trend would catch on? About time I say…
Good for: Casual weekend nights-out with friends.
Not for: Fine diners and plain eaters. It’s tapas and therefore all about the taste sensation. Nothing bland to see here folks.
££: Regular prices for quality food. Each tapa ranges from £5.50 to £7.95 a dish with an overall average of £6 a dish. This is reasonably-priced food for folk who don’t want to pay over the odds.
Tips: Don’t over-order. The portions are reasonably-sized and you can always order more.
Shill’s of Cockermouth, 11 South Street, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 9RU
T 01900 823000 W shillsofcockermouth.co.uk