When 1884 Dock Street Kitchen opened to much fanfare on Hull’s marina side three years ago I filed a cautiously positive review. It was, and remains, the largest and most upmarket restaurant in Hull, with a modern English menu at an austerity-dodging price. However, despite my misgivings it seemingly does a roaring trade. Certainly, it makes enough for the owners to have decided to expand the brand across the marina at the recently opened 1884 Wine and Tapas Bar.
1884 Tapas (I’m unilaterally shortening the name) occupies the space where once The Wilson was, a relatively basic restaurant aimed at the lunchtime sandwich crowd and the odd yachty type wandering off the boats. There has now been a very good refit and everything is now darker and more luxurious. (They’ve even incorporated some of the same fixation with bizarre lampshades; here there are chandeliers inside metal birdcages. Very Marquis de Sade.) The food is limited – successfully – to a short but satisfying tapas menu with a couple of mains and there is an extensive and appealing wine menu.
Not that I had any wine. I met a mate there one Monday afternoon and – heathens that we are – we stuck to beer. Actually this decision accounted for much juvenile giggling as our chosen tipple was Mahou, which none of the waiting staff knew how to pronounce. We had ‘Mahoo’, ‘Maahow’, Maow’, ‘Moo’ and even ‘Moet’ – all good fun and not meant as a criticism of the team at all as they were uniformly grand and attentive. If anything, over-attentive. Little tip – if the punters are happily gabbing, back off. If they need you, they’ll get your attention.
Anyhow, after bread and oil and olives and a liquid livener we selected a mix of tapas to attack. Albondigas were very good meatballs; you often find them over-ground and under-seasoned, but these weren’t.
Berenjenas y pimientos was my favourite; the distinct but rather bland taste of aubergine was perked right up by some delicious melted goat’s cheese and then lifted further by pungent rosemary. Esparragos consisted of around 10 spears of asparagus, perfectly pan fried and paired to great effect with toasted almond flakes. Patatas con salsa de ajo were just fried potato cubes with a garlic sauce but were good and authentic. As was papatas y chorizo, with the potatoes doing a fine job of absorbing the tasty oils of the excellent, soft chorizo.
These account for under half of the tapas dishes on the menu and all the others sounded just as good. It’s always admirable when a restaurant deliberately keeps its menu short and sweet.
Even shorter was the plato principal menu. You can either have skewers, or share paella or beef fillets. We chose the skewers and duly ordered chorizo and cordero.
What arrived was a little theatrical, but not so tacky that it would put you off. You get a red hot frame thing. On one of the skewers were two full chorizo sausages and on the other about half a dozen chunks of lamb. The sausages were soft, juicy and succulent. Apparently there are plans for the restaurant to create their own, locally-sourced chorizo in the near future but they’d do well to beat these. The lamb chunks were perfectly cooked with just a hint of garlic.
Under both meats were small fried green pimientos and chillies, which soak up the falling juices from meat. The waitress advised us to keep some of the sauce from the albondigas to dip the peppers in and this was advice very well given.
You’ll pay £5 to £9 for the tapas and £8 to £10 for the skewers. Not cheap, but not outrageous either. Dearer are the sharer plates of paella and beef at £28 to £36, but we never made it to them.
There were desserts available, all of which sounded delicious, but we’d had our fill by this point.
The kitchen is headed by a young chef called Dan Poole who supervises with great confidence and aplomb.
He trained with James MacKenzie at the Pipe & Glass, where he obviously picked up James’s eye for decent ingredients and the restraint to let them do the work. The restaurant is clearly in very good hands. Although it may be smaller, busier and less grand than Dock Street Kitchen, I prefer 1884 Tapas. There is an intimacy that the big brother lacks. It’s not often a sequel is better than the original, but we definitely have a Godfather II on our hands.
• 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar, Freedom Quay, Wellington Street West, Hull HU1 2BE. 01482 216306, www.1884wine andtapasbar.co.uk