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Me the food critic??

Ever since I was a child I have always wanted to be the Chief taster for walkers crisps but no matter how many letters I write them, I still get no response.
I have come to terms with the fact, that maybe the job title doesn’t exist (thanks for misleading me with your 90’s advert ‘Walkers’)
Here is my debut restaurant review for my back-up career choice….

Embrujo Spanish restaurant, Acle, Norfolk.
This will be a fair and honest review of the restaurant Embrujo, which I later learned translates to ‘Magic’
Me and my wife live in Essex and we have a boat in Potter Heigham which we visit as often as possible.
Due to our frequent boat visits we must have driven past ‘Embrujo’ maybe 60 times in the last two or more years. Me and the wife have been saying for a while that we should one day go there for dinner. My Father is half Spanish and I a quarter, our surname is Diaz, we have a Spanish palette and enjoy Rioja in abundance, cured meats and spicy chorizo. We have had more than our fair share of Spanish holidays but none of these factors had anything to do with my interest in eating at ‘Embrujo’ because I always thought that the large italic written sign said ‘Embryo’.

Our two teenage boys have now reached zero barrier, where they no longer come on holiday with mummy and daddy so on this particular occasion it was just me and the wife and we chose to romance it up a bit with a meal at ‘Embrujo’ ( I agree, it does sound a lot more romantic than Embryo)
Now before we go into this review you must understand my star ratings.
0* Disgusting.
1* There was some effort involved but I would definitely not eat here again.
2* I can cook better but it was edible and good enough to enjoy after half bottle of wine.
3* Good effort, nice food, good atmosphere. I would eat here again.
4* I would recommend this restaurant, it is above average.
5* Means I am impressed. Eat here as often as possible.
6* This is the x-factors gold buzzer.

Our dinner date started with a phone call to book a table. The phone was answered by a gentleman with broken English and a Spanish accent.
A good start! Things looked positive that the food to come would be traditional, although I did find it strange that the table was originally booked without a time being allocated for said booking.
Just as the Spanish Gentleman said goodbye I said “Wait! What time?” The man answered “About seven…”

So we arrived around seven and entered via the front door and into the traditional English pub bar.
Once we gained the attention of a member of staff we were escorted to an empty conservatory where we were sat next to an old piano.
I must say, I was not impressed at this point. The enormous ‘Embryo’ sign did not transmit that we would be eating in the conservatory of a pub!
There was a choice of one red and one white house wine which were reasonably priced although I am not convinced that my red was a Rioja like it was advertised. It was fruity and mellow like a Merlot rather than the typical Rioja characteristics.
The same with the white wine, more sweet Chardonnay than a typical white Rioja.

The menu itself offered a selection of tapas dishes which did seem expensive to me. From past experience of Spanish restaurants, tapas is served in small clay pots which can be shared between you. I guess I was expecting a ‘6 tapas for £££’ offer or something but each dish varied between £7 – £12 each, which I think would work out too expensive to order such a selection.
For starters we ordered some olives, some asparagus spears with garlic mayonnaise (ali oli), and bread with ham and tomatoes.

Every dish was enormous which is probably why the prices were so high. We had a bowl of olives which were marinated to perfection but came in such abundance that it would be inconceivable to say that they hadn’t previously been the leftovers of the 50 previous customers.
(a bit like the dip selection in an Indian restaurant)
The bread with ham and tomatoes was tasty and the ham was clearly hand carved from a cured leg of pork out back.
My wife didn’t much like this however but it was as it would have been served had we of been in Spain.
The bread was nice but the tomatoes had been replaced by a small dollop of tasteless orange liquid… your guess is as good as mine.
Despite the missing tomatoes or vibrancy of colour, I did enjoy it and ate it all pretty much to myself.
The asparagus spears were not eaten as they looked and tasted like big transparent slugs. Ice cold see-through slugs with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and enough salad to feed Bugs bunny’s entire family for the foreseeable future.

Main courses were King prawns cooked in garlic and olive oil (a classic), Spanish meatballs, spicy chorizo cooked over fire and a free side dish of bread.
The first thing that bothered me was that the bread was the same as the 8 slices we had just eaten with the ham and that it came with nothing to flavour it. I was expecting a dipping bowl of balsamic vinegar and olive oil or even some butter.
The prawns were plentiful and the garlic/olive oil had flavoured them well, however the one inch long king prawns had clearly come straight out of the local supermarket’s freezer. They tasted overcooked and a bit chewy.
The 3 snooker ball sized meatballs in tomato sauce were absolutely delicious. They were cooked perfectly and the sauce was typically Spanish and not trying to be an Italian Bolognese sauce. I can cook a good meatball but man! These were good.

We did ponder ordering the paella at first but due to our first impression of the place we thought fish may have been too much of a risk.
In hindsight, I’m glad we steered clear of it because I don’t think I would trust the chef to look after a goldfish let alone cook some.

The Spanish guy who served us, whom I am guessing was the owner, was friendly enough although he did lack serving skills which left me leaving my table mid main course to ask for a drink and again to pay the bill. Whilst trying to converse with the Spanish man during the 10 minutes it took for the card machine to decline my card, I couldn’t believe I was in the same restaurant.
I had assumed the restaurant was the conservatory that we were put in amongst the 4 other ‘reserved tables’ that no body came to fill during the 2 hours we were there but, here there was lots of tables full of paella eating people, wine and of course the missing atmosphere.
The food looked good, people looked as though they were enjoying themselves and seeing as we did pre book, if we had been sat there then my star rating would have been maybe half a star more but we wasn’t, so…. 2.8 stars. Not quite embryo but not magic either.

Summary: The Spanish theme didn’t do it for me. Some effort had been made but it still resembled a pub conservatory.
I’m sure if we had some Latino music playing rather than Elvis Presley, the atmosphere would have been better and little things such as a jug of water with our wine or dipping oils for the bread and some attention to service all would have added points to my rating, but the experience we had leaves it with a 2.8 star rating. Not a Spanish restaurant but a pub that sells Spanish food.

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