The Lighthouse has been a number of things over the years. Some may remember it as The Duke’s Cut, most will recall it as Rosie O’Grady’s. You know, the one by the open air car park on Park End Street.
I’ll start off by saying, I didn’t have high expectations. Given I make it my job to find the best places to eat, I can mostly avoid average or below par food. I’d eaten at The Lighthouse a few years ago, probably as The Duke’s Cut, and have no memory of the food. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t memorable either.
This one though, I’m pleased to say, overachieved.
Seeing as we were there to roadtest cocktails and tapas, we headed straight for the cocktails (all £7.80). My classic Mojito was a tasty ensemble, sips of each other’s drinks elicited appreciative nods too.
The tapas menu – offered up in sections of meat, vegan, vegetarian and seafood – had plenty of appealing options, with dishes ranging from £3.90 to £6.70 each. We ordered pretty much all the vegetarian options, plus a few from the fish section plus obligatory meatballs to balance out all the fish & veg.
Blue cheese croquettes were excellent, as were tempura prawns and halloumi fries, each served with individual sauces – homemade aioli for the croquette, Marie Rose for the prawn, salsa brava for the halloumi. I was fooled into doubting, but the crispy-shelled potato pillows turned out to be plentiful of ripe cheese flavour, the mayo rich in garlic.
Calamari was very good, better than expected and pleasing to all; traditional white wine prawns went down equally well. Patatas fritas and Spanish omelette filled a whole without setting tastebuds alight. Glazed grilled aubergine was absolutely fine, tasty even, stacked up with tomato and mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic glaze and dusted with dried oregano; it just needed something to lift it as a dish. The only real letdown was the meatball dish, a lack of browning on the outside left them with an unenjoyable, mushy texture.
A second round of cocktails brought with them another rum cocktail for me, this time a Twisted Sling – Bacardi Oakheart spiced rum mixed with fresh lime and caramel syrup, topped with ginger beer. A happily balanced blend of sweet and sour, the lime and caramel an intriguing mix partnered with the classic spiced rum and ginger beer.
At the end of the meal, we all agreed we were impressed and would return again. With who? I imagine groups of friends would be perfect, nattering over tapas and cocktails. I can also see it being a suitable place for a work lunch, or with kids – both older or younger. I didn’t check it out from the perspective of baby-friendliness, so don’t quote me on that, but I can see my primary school aged kids happily picking away at the small plates.
Yes, there are tweaks they could make in the kitchen to lift some of the dishes, more creativity could flourish, but all the classics were there and nothing (bar the meatballs) really disappointed. I liked it, which surprised me. Kudos to The Lighthouse – I do like an over-achiever.
Given that The Lighthouse is my regular after work drinks venue, I’m fully aware of their beers (which I’ll save for another day). On this occasion, it was all about the cocktails. My favourite was The Botanist, a really refreshing mix of gin, elderflower, ginger and lime. Definitely, one I could have a few of and fantastic on a hot day!
My favourite dish was the white wine prawns, these succulent, spicy prawns were lovely and sweet with a nice heat to them. They also come with a couple of slices of bread which is just enough to mop up the delicious oil.
I enjoyed the overall experience. Our waiter was friendly, my mango-themed cocktails were fruity and tart, and the tapas were flavourful.
For me, the seafood dishes especially hit the spot. The lightly crispy tempura prawns were plump, sweet- tender and not too rich when dipped in the Marie-Rose sauce. I would have liked a little bit more of the coriander that was advertised as part of the white wine prawns dish, but otherwise, they were tasty little bites. I was also happily surprised by the strong flavour of the croquettes – you bite through the crunch of the breadcrumb exterior into the smooth potato filling and then feel the blue cheese hit you. And they stood up well to the garlic-heavy aioli on the side. The patatas fritas and halloumi fries were nicely crispy and salty so they went down fine. I think of them as a tapas easy win to accompany the cocktails.
My least favourite tapa was the meatballs. Not only was the sauce lacking in punch, but the texture of the meatballs didn’t feel quite right on the tongue. They were too loose and soft for my taste, meaning they verged on being mushy rather than meaty.
As a final note, my own personal crusade is to get restaurants to serve better bread, even when it’s just a side element. I wasn’t surprised that the Lighthouse served the type of baguette you find in any local supermarket (so many places do), but I do wish they hadn’t.
We were invited to review tapas and cocktails as guests of The Lighthouse. As always, they agreed to Bitten maintaining full editorial control and all views remain our own.