At El Sabio we offer you the opportunity to experience authentic Spanish tapas and other dishes, along with a good glass of wine in our riverside restaurant in East Gate, Winchester.
This is a family-run bar and restaurant owned and run by a chef from Hungary!
by Deborah Beard
on January 24, 2011
El Sabio Tapas Bar is at a huge advantage in Winchester being one of very few restaurants that are not an Italian. This alone makes it stand out against the competition and is an obvious choice in the city for an alternative meal out.
I have visited El Sabio on a number of occasions and always as part of a large group, Tapas are ideal for sharing as everyone else’s dish always seems to look so much more exciting than your own and the restaurant itself reflects the social side of tapas. It’s full of chatter, has a relaxed atmosphere and, to my husband’s delight, they are more than happy for you to take home your leftovers. It’s laid-back atmosphere and food-sharing culture lends itself ideally to families, couples and large groups – even those without adventurous taste buds would be able to find something to love about the food.
On this occasion I was unable to indulge in my favourite jug of Sangria due to being pregnant, so I indulged in the food a little too much instead. Indigestion aside, the Paella de Carne (a small paella with chicken and chorizo sausage) was wonderfully cooked, the chicken was succulent and the chorizo really livened up the dish which otherwise would have been bland. The colourful rice was mixed with peas and the dish was much larger than I was expecting. Having previously tried the Tortilla Espanola, a thick wedge of Spanish omelette stuffed with potatoes and onion, I was keen to have it again and I wasn’t disappointed. The subtle flavour of the egg was complemented perfectly by the onion which lifted the taste, while the potato gave it the texture of a dish that you could quite happily have eaten on its own without any accompaniments. My last choice of dish was the Patatas Bravas o con Alioli, deep fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. They made an excellent addition to the paella, although by the time I’d worked my way through the other dishes I found the sauce took a little bit away from the flavours of the others.
Having always gone as part of a large group, it’s always been a challenge for the serving staff and kitchen staff dealing with our orders, but the service has never been poor even when there have been other large groups in the restaurant at the same time.
The only thing that really lets El Sabio down is its location. Situated right at the bottom of the city centre on the one way system, it is not a “stumble across” restaurant which is a shame. It is so refreshing to have a restaurant in Winchester that strays off the beaten Italian track that I can’t help but feel it’s missing out on a lot of casual, passing trade simply because of where it is.
That said, El Sabio is a real find and somewhere that should be on everyone’s list of restaurants to try in Winchester.
by Louise Taylor
on September 21, 2010
The riverside tapas bar and restaurant, El Sabio, was the first restaurant my newborn daughter visited. Scrunched up in her sling she slept through the visit while her parents enjoyed a generous selection of the always excellent Spanish tapas dishes that are this restaurant’s speciality.
Open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday and for dinner every day, this is somewhere that we return to again and again, usually for weekday lunches when the place tends to be very quiet. The two or three shallow steps up to the door pose no problem for prams or pushchairs and, once inside, away from the busy main road, there is space enough to manoeuvre even the biggest pram with ease. (And a pram or pushchair may well be necessary for diners with small children as, for car-parking, the restaurant relies on the Council pay-and-display car parks on Friarsgate and Middle Book Street.) Weather permitting, there is also a lovely outdoor terrace right over the river.
The staff are friendly and welcoming – and, without asking, have always turned down background music that threatened to wake our sleeping baby. Service is quick and the largely locally-sourced food is moreish. I never fail to include the Gitano Hotpot – a meltingly tender amalgamation of chickpeas, whole almonds, lentils and butternut squash – and a robustly saffron-scented vegetable paella in my tapas selection while my husband is rather partial to the Gourmet Burger that is included on the menu as a sort of sideshow to the main event that are the tapas. So far, we have never had sufficient appetite left to try the tapas (i.e. 3-for-1) desserts. That is an omission that I plan to remedy by taking our two-and-a-half year old pudding-favouring son there for lunch one day soon.
Although there is a good selection of wine, we normally opt for freshly squeezed orange juice. That said, I can vouch that one or two of their rose wines definitely merit further extended tasting – maybe at one of the restaurant’s Salsa evenings. No doubt that would push up the bill a little but, given that three tapas dishes cost just £7.99, perhaps it is an expense that can be justified once in a while.
At 6 months old my daughter now rarely sleeps through her visits to El Sabio, preferring instead to flirt with the staff and eye up the food. We are looking forward to moving her from her sling or pushchair and into one of the restaurant’s highchairs in order to introduce her to some of its dishes and are crossing our fingers that her brother’s rather conservative taste buds can be tempted by some of the flavours of Spain in this riverside Winchester restaurant.
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