A night of tapas at No 31
June 15, 2018
Ever since No 31 tapas restaurant opened its doors in Woburn Sands, I've been champing at the bit to go, liking the principle of having a little (or a lot) from several different dishes.
Spanish food isn't something I have had a lot of experience with other than cooking the occasional paella and enjoying spicy sausage (you lot snickering at the back there - behave!)
So when my friends from The Chocolate Mill MK managed to procure a voucher for No 31, who was I to say no?
Woburn Sands is a lovely little town that is close enough to Milton Keynes to be lively, but not so close that the city encroaches too much. No 31 is on the high street in a fairly central location and when we arrived, the place was absolutely packed. Always a good sign.
We had to wait for our table, so we were ushered towards the bar where the bar tender was making a cocktail for another patron and demonstrating his excellent technique with the cocktail shaker. I like a man with skills.
One of my companions was also suitably impressed so did the 'I'll have what she's having' nod and ordered Sex on the Beach (fnar fnar! I know it's childish, but I don't care!)
I also liked the fact they didn't have a cocktail list and you could just request what you wanted. The bar staff were very knowledgable, particularly about their gins, of which there were many.
We were guided to our table and after quite a wait, were given our menus. A look at the list revealed there was a great range of tapas, of varying prices, not too many or too few to choose from. After much discussion - there always is when ordering tapas to avoid too much duplication - we placed our order: manchego, sourdough and oil with balsamic, Iberico bellota jamon, chorizo (two types), jamon croquettas, braised pig cheeks in sherry, albondigas, zesty chicken, salted calimari, prawns, padron peppers and patatas bravas.
Overall, the food was tasty and there were some hits and misses. Some of the portion sizes could have been bigger - for example, the bread we requested only had three small slices per dish on it, so it was fortunate we ordered two portions. But with most of the dishes, there was enough for everyone.
The salted calamari was well-cooked and not at all chewy, which can be a risk with squid, and the padron peppers - griddled mild green chillies - were surprisingly tasty.
The Iberico bellota jamon and the Manchego cheese I used as pleasant accompaniments to the sourdough bread (bread, ham and cheese - what's not to like), but the patatas bravas - although pleasant enough - tasted like they needed something more.
For me, the favourite dish of the evening were the albondigas - Spanish meatballs in a tomato sauce. The meat was tender and the sauce had a sweetness that complimented the savouriness of the meatballs. TG and my friends' favourite were the braised pork cheeks in sherry - tender morsels of meat that fell apart, just with the touch of a fork.
For dessert, it was an easy decision all round - churros with chocolate sauce. They were polished off in no time, with the chocolate sauce having a well-rounded flavour and what tasted like a hint of citrus. The churros had the right mix of crispness on the outside and chewiness on the inside.
The only grumbles I would have would be about the slowness of service at the beginning - it took some time to receive the menus - although the restaurant was packed. The decor was very attractive and vibrant, but music was too loud, making it difficult to have a conversation and for the waiting staff to hear our orders. If the music had been just a bit quieter, it would have improved the ambience.
The prices were very reasonable and what you would expect from a specialist restaurant in this neck of the woods. If you want a relaxing night out in an out of town location, put No 31 on your list.
Find them online here.