Becky Fry’s eyes are bigger than her stomach at this French-leaning tapas house

SITTING out in the suburbs on a quiet and leafy section of Woolton Road, you’ll find one of my favourite restaurants. No, not the subject of this review, sadly, but its neighbour, Cucina Di Vincenzo. Since 2016, Vincenzo’s has gone on to be one of the most popular Italians in the city, seating a full house nearly every single day and acting as the perfect hangout for the south Liverpool wives and Wags, and the odd celebrity too. Opening next door to such a well-loved place might be a bit of a risk for a new restaurant, but I reckon this could be a crafty decision from El Nido. This section of the city has long needed some fresh blood and El Nido could be just the place to start off a bit of restaurant rivalry.

The food is interesting, certainly unique and very well cooked

While the menu is primarily tapas, you’d have to be related to Sherlock to work that out from the interior. With grey velour seating, pendant lamps and exposed grey brick, this restaurant wouldn’t look a bit out of place in the business district. It’s much more in the El Gato Negro vein of tapas restaurants than the fiesta of sangria jugs and flamenco dancers you might expect adorning the walls in your local La Tasca. I reckon the locals will love it.

2019 12 08 El Nido Exterior
El Nido in Woolton Village

El Nido claims to be Basque-inspired; their tapas and small plates draw inspiration and flavours from both northern Spain and across the border from their neighbours in France. On the more Spanish end of the spectrum, we try patatas bravas (£3.50), which are large and come scaldingly hot with traditional tomato sauce plus a peppery ‘bravas sauce’ for dipping. Croquettes (£5.50) are bursting at the seams with stringy manchego and salty bites of cured ham, but a sweet romesco sauce takes the edge off.

2019 12 08 El Nido Starters
Croquettes and patatas bravas take their cue from Spain

Interestingly, the majority of the dishes we ordered ended up leaning towards the French side of the border. Shelled king prawns (£8), for example, are served ‘pil pil’ style with chilli, but where you normally might expect a whack of garlic in the hot oil, here your prawns will come in a pool of butter and a ton of fresh herbs.

2019 12 08 El Nido Prawns
Gambas pil-pil, El Nido style

Likewise, bread and oil (£4.50) takes the form of a warm, soft baguette drenched with garlic butter and served with a trio of dips – salsa verde, hummus and a pretty spectacular and fragrant orange blossom aioli, that’s the kind of substitution I can get on board with.

2019 12 08 El Nido Bread
Bread and oil - but not as you know it

Probably most French were the ‘small plates’, a range of larger fish and meat dishes that weren’t particularly small at all. Fillet tournedos (£10) was a definite winner: a duo of mirror glazed steak medallions on a truffle oil crouton and creamy liver pâté. I won’t lie to you, it didn’t look that pretty (have you ever seen hot pâté before?), but if you shut your eyes and go in blind you’ll find it much more appealing.

2019 12 08 El Nido Tournedos
Tournedos beef medallions won the day

Wanting more on the meat front, we also ordered roast chicken (£8.50) with a creamy supreme sauce, the highlight of which was a sweet quince jelly sandwiched in the middle of the crispy meat.

2019 12 08 El Nido Chicken
Chicken combines cream sauce and quince jelly

A pile of lamb cutlets (£10) that would have impressed even the hungriest of cavemen, meanwhile, were perfectly pink, chargrilled and smoky – though perhaps an unnecessary addition to our overzealous ordering.

2019 12 08 El Nido Lamb Cutlets
Lamb cutlets - brill from the grill

Overall I think El Nido are off to a promising start. While things aren’t running entirely smoothly just yet (there were a few bits that we tried ordering that were unavailable), the food is interesting, certainly unique and very well cooked. It’s a shame the dessert menu is so small but the cocktail list just about makes up for it… keep your eyes on this one.  

El Nido, 252 Woolton Road, Woolton, L16 8NE  

Follow Becky on Twitter

2019 12 08 El Nido Receipt

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 7/10

    Patatas bravas 7, croquettes 7, prawns 7, bread 8, fillet tournedos 8, chicken 6, lamb cutlets 7

  • Service 3/5

    Efficient but unremarkable

  • Atmosphere 3/5

    Busy for a Sunday, although it all felt a bit formal