La Vina in Liverpool city centre brings the vibrant tastes and traditions of Spain to the Northwest.
It's near the old banking area which has recently seen an increase in new bars and restaurants. The restaurant's exterior immediately gives an impression of an old Spanish town with large floor-to-ceiling windows dressed with brightly coloured flowers in window boxes and dark wooden panelling. You feel the warmth of this restaurant as you approach it and this continues as you walk inside.
The owners have created a rustic and authentic atmosphere with the continued use of wood panelling inside the restaurant and the oranges and reds used to paint the walls. Blue and white tiles around the bar complement this look. Wooden floors, dark wood chairs, benches and tables and the candles maintain this theme.
It's split into three sections, separated by wooden banisters and ornate wooden doors. When you enter there is a small desk in front of you where you're greeted by friendly staff and taken to your table. Tables seat two to four people or can be joined together for larger parties. Pictures of barrels painted on the walls add to the rustic vibe. Plants hang from a wooden trellis on the ceiling which gives a feel of the Spanish countryside.
The open kitchen is obscured only by a large glass display-cabinet filled with desserts. Shelves are stacked with bottles of olive oil and vinegar. The bar is in the right hand section of the restaurant so you can just have a drink, either sitting on tall wooden stools or at the tables which have been fashioned out of large barrels. Many bottles of wine sit in racks on the wall behind the bar as well as flowers, candles and chandeliers.
La Vina often has live music with a flamenco band creating an atmosphere you could only hope to find in a small restaurant in the Spanish hills. When the band are not performing, Spanish music is played in the background creating a lively buzz and a real ambience that feels natural and warm.
La Vina attracts a range of people - couples, young and old, and groups of friends sampling the paella, tapas and delicious Spanish wines. Staff are friendly and attentive. Their uniform of all black trousers/skirt with shirt and apron is smart and classic. And they all seem to be Spanish which adds to the authenticity.
Although La Vina is a chain, the food is so fresh and tasty and the atmosphere so vibrant that you feel you're dining in a family run establishment.
There are many different sections on the menu with the difficulty being what to choose. To start there is a selection of breads and olives all between £2 and £3. There are also three montados which are toasted breads with toppings and slightly more expensive at around £5.
Pan de ajo con queso, or garlic bread with cheese, comes piping hot and is very tasty. It's not too big so it won't fill you up before the main course. Montado la vina is probably a more traditional version to try with the serrano ham and melted goats cheese proving to be a mouthwatering combination enhanced by a drizzle of honey. There is a lot of bread on the starter menu but as the staff allow you to choose a starter from the tapas menu there are many alternatives.
Main courses prove to be the most difficult decision of all. With paella, brochetas (skewered meats), salads, traditional main courses and tapas to choose from you already want to book your next visit to try something from each section.
There are four types of paella at around £10 each per person but unfortunately they can only be ordered to share. Brochetas also come as a choice of four, with steak, chicken, fish or vegetarian again at a cost of around £10.
Chicken brocheta arrives on an impressive vertical skewer and is removed from this by the waiting staff. The accompanying salad is the healthier choice although the patatas bravas with the amazing side order of garlic mayonnaise is a must.
For those wanting to try a selection of the traditional Spanish delights on the menu the tapas is a good place to start. With more than 30 dishes priced between £4 and £5 the staff suggest you choose between three and four dishes per person. Every food group is covered meaning there is something for everyone.
Albondigas a la jardinera (meat balls in a tomato and vegetable sauce) are a good choice for meat lovers with the melt in the mouth meat cooked to perfection. Tortilla espanola is a traditional Spanish omelette and its delicious flavours make this a good alternative to the meat and fish dishes. Brochetas de pollo y chorizo is a tasty combination of chicken and chorizo sausage marinated in red wine and honey. There is also a good selection of vegetarian and fish tapas.
If there is room for dessert then the tarta de queso chocolat y naranja (chocolate and orange cheesecake) is the one to choose. This dessert is so delicious it is worth ordering one less tapas dish to make sure you are not too full to enjoy it. Another good choice is the seleccion de quesos although this is served with bread rather than crackers which probably should be pointed out especially to those who have ordered bread as a starter.
La Vina also offer a lunch menu of three tapas for £6.95 Monday to Friday before 5pm and a Sunday tapas sampler menu for two people at £12.95 per person. It is also worth checking out their website as they very often have online deals.
There is a good choice of wine and Spanish reds are the favourite with 10 to choose from. Prices start at £10 and there's also white, rose, sparkling and one dessert wine. House white (Altozara Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc) is crisp, fresh, tasty and easy to drink.
There is also a good choice of liqueurs, brandys, beers and spirits and you can choose from the traditional Spanish cervezas or the usual brands found in city centre bar and restaurants. Drinks are all reasonably priced and there is a selection of soft drinks and hot drinks.
The Last Word
La Vina is a livel, popular restaurant which will impress those with a love of all things Spanish. With an extensive menu and reasonable prices for the quality on offer this is definitely a place that will have you returning for more.