Neon Jamon, Liverpool
Much-loved Liverpudlian tapas joint Neon Jamon moves to a new location, and we find out it's every bit as good
Neon Jamon on Smithdown Place has quite a fan club, including none other than Samuel L Jackson. Its food is so well-loved in fact, that later in this year they're opening a second venue, on Berry Street, in the city centre.
We ventured over to the original location for a late Sunday lunch and were able to get a table without booking; somewhat fortunate seeing as we once attempted a walk-in on a Sunday and had to face a 50-minute wait.
We receive a very warm welcome from the staff and this friendly greeting is extended throughout our meal. Our waitress is polite, chatty and knows the menu inside out.
“You really should try the straw fries and eggs, they're what people go away talking about,” she tells us. Well, that's a good enough recommendation for me and I order them. I also choose the sautéed mushrooms and the tomato, chilli and mint salad.
My partner orders the hamburguesa – mini veal and beef hamburgers with a pink and green peppercorn sauce – the straw fries and eggs, and Iberico pork ribs in membrillo and sherry vinegar.
Yes, we order two portions of the straw fries and eggs. I don't like to share my food. And I'm glad we do: two perfectly poached eggs sit wobbling atop a pile of fries, sprinkled with paprika; a gentle jab with a fork sends the sunshine-yellow yolk running across the fries. It's a perfect match.
But, for me, the star of the meal is the sautéed mushrooms; without exaggeration, they are the tastiest mushrooms I've ever had and – being a non-meat eater – I've had enough mushrooms to know. The sauce is creamy and soaks deliciously into the sourdough bread.
My partner evidently enjoys his hamburguesas and polishes off the straw fries and eggs pretty quickly. By the time his ribs arrive, he's beginning to struggle, but powers through.
The ribs come in a delightfully messy sauce (a bad choice for any bearded diners out there) and fall away from the bone with ease. They are my partner's favourite dish.
Neon Jamon is a Cava bar, and is reputed for its selection. Normally I'm a red wine drinker and, although they do have a good selection of reds, it is a case of when in Rome...
I don't ordinarily enjoy the dryness of most sparkling wines, which I tell the waitress, and she recommends the demi-sec. It's a brilliant choice. For a girl who doesn't enjoy sparkling wine I manage to polish off four glasses.
Although we are both more than sated, the dessert menu looks incredibly tempting: churros and chocolate dipping sauce, crema Catalana. We end up ordering from the specials menu: gin-and-tonic sorbet. It is gorgeous, very boozy and perfect alongside the Cava.
The waitress tells us that the chef makes it himself: he has a side-business making ice cream and supplies to Neon Jamon. How entrepreneurial.
We chat away to the chef after our meal. He asks us what we ordered and I gush about the deliciousness of the sautéed mushrooms. “Yes, they're one of my favourites, they go really well with the spinach, pine-nuts and raisins,” he says.
I make a mental note to try this combination next time, because there will most certainly be a next time.
If you haven't been you need to make a visit – and do it quick so you can say, 'Oh Neon Jamon? Yeah, I've been into their food since before they came to the city centre.'
If you liked Neon Jamon, try:
Manchester La Bandera, Manchester