“ Address: 11 Railway Road / Darwen / Lancashire / BB3 2RG „
La Salsa in Darwen is the newest of three tapas restaurants (with the others being found in Bolton and Horwich), which offers excellent food in authentic surroundings. There are many different offers available and the restaurant offers a welcome change to the mind boggling number of Indian restaurants in this small town.
The restaurant works on an eat as much as you like format, but rather than being a buffet, the dishes are cooked to order and served at your table. There are various prices depending on what time of day and week you visit. The restaurant is open seven days a week, from 3pm until 11pm on Mondays to Thursdays and from 12pm until 11pm on Fridays to Sundays. If you go for the early dinner option (before 6pm weekdays and before 7pm on weekends) the price is £10.95 per person. If you go at any other time, the price is £12.95 per person weekdays and £14.95 at weekends. Whichever option you go for, I can safely say that you are definitely getting good value for money.
The restaurant itself is small, so I would definitely recommend booking in advance if you are going at busy times, although there is an upstairs dining room that is opened at busier times to accomodate larger parties. The main restaurant downstairs is small and has a number of dark wooden tables that are adorned with candles. This adds to the atmosphere in my opinion, but the candles are the only form of light so it can be difficult to see at times - especially when you are trying to read the menu. The tables are all quite closely packed together, but somehow it doesn't seem to be a problem and you still feel quite cosy and private. Oddly enough for a Spanish restaurant, the walls are covered in paintings of scenes from Italy and France, namely Venice and Paris!
The service is welcoming and attentive and the waiters are happy to explain what each dish is if you ask. They are also very efficient considering the wide variety of dishes available and will always check that you have everything you have ordered just to make sure. The kitchen is also open plan, which is always a good sign in my opinion and the banging and crashing that comes from the area all adds to the atmosphere.
Even without all these things, you couldn't fail to love La Salsa for the food alone. The choice, like I said, is excellent and all of the dishes are made with the best ingredients. When you sit down, your waiter will explain that they recommend you choose four dishes per person to start and then order more afterwards. When you first look at the menu, you want everything and it is difficult to narrow it down from the 44 available!
The dishes are split into sections: Acompanamientos (breads and olives), Vegetarian, Charcuterie (smoked meats and cheeses), Pollo (chicken), Carne (Meat), Pescados y Mariscos (Fish) and Ensaladas (Salads). The dishes vary in size, although all are served in the same size small oven pots, some are more filling than others. My favourites are the garlic mushrooms, which are huge and packed full of flavour and the Chorizo Frito al Vino, which is pieces of chorizo cooked in red wine. There are so many others that I also like, but my review would go on for ever if I listed them all. The fish dishes are particularly worthy of a note because the ingredients are the finest, from huge king prawns to tender squid rings - all included in the same price. There is no shortage of choice for vegetarians, with over 18 of the 44 dishes marked with a green V to indicate suitability. I can particularly recommend the tasty stuffed peppers and the traditional Spanish omelette. Even younger diners and fussy eaters will find plenty to enjoy with roasted potatoes in garlic mayonnaise, meatballs and chicken skewers, amongst others, to choose from.
There are a selection of desserts to choose from, although not many and by the time you've eaten your fill of the tapas, you'll not have much room for one. The desserts aren't included in the price and will set you back around £4 each. The Tiramisu and the chocolate fudge cake are good though if you have the room. Drinks are also not included, but are the standard prices you would expect from a restaurant. They have an extensive choice, including Sol beer served with a lime wedge and a fairly comprehensive wine menu.
Overall, I'd bank on about £20 per head for food and drinks, less if you are going midweek and even less if you're taking advantage of the early diner menu. For the quality of service and amazing food, this is exceptionally good value for money.
The only negative thing I have to say about La Salsa (and it's only a little gripe) is that there is nowhere to sit and wait if you are meeting other people - there are no seats at the small bar. However the owners have realised this and will guide you straight to your table to wait with a drink and a menu anyway, so not too much of a problem.
So if you are in the area, you should definitely try out La Salsa for great food, a nice atmosphere and not a bad price!