What better way to spend a warm summer’s evening than sitting on a terrace by the waterfront eating tapas? Whilst we won’t be jetting off to the Mediterranean any time soon, we did find ourselves in a little restaurant overlooking the river in ‘Costa del’ Upton-Upon-Severn last week, which is near enough the same thing.
Upton-Upon-Severn is the smallest town in Worcestershire (owing its existence entirely to the River Severn), but there’s no shortage of things to do in the vibrant riverside town. We’ve recently been rediscovering the best places to eat in the area, with our most recent visits this year being to Indian restaurant Thrishna on Old Street, and The Swan Inn at Hanley Swan, The Jockey, The Inn at Welland, The Elgar Inn which are all situated just on the outskirts of Upton.
Remaining curious about The Boathouse on the waterfront, I made enquiries with a few friends and colleagues. Interestingly the primary feedback was that they hadn’t heard any bad reports, but equally seemed to be waiting to be told that it was good before they tried it themselves. Mr R and I booked a table and went along to find out.
Downstairs is a café (serving breakfast between 10-11:30am), with sandwiches, omelettes, grazing boards and salads available for lunch. The tapas menu can also be requested from 12-3pm, or you can enjoy the stunning views with an afternoon tea (pre-order only). We went upstairs to the main restaurant which opens for dinner. The large open spaced room is filled with wooden tables and chairs, with a bar at the back and fun pictures on the walls of various rock and Hollywood legends.
The waitress informed us of the day’s specials, as well as recommending that we start with some homemade hummus and tzatziki dips served with warm pitta bread and suggested we order 4-5 plates to share between the 2 of us. We asked her questions about the cocktail list before Mr R decided on a Junipero American gin and I was sold on the idea of gin and prosecco so went with a Huckleberry gin (Prosecco, coconut gin, elderflower). Our waitress then excitedly told us about their new prosecco ‘Casanova‘. The Boathouse are currently the only stockist to sell the range in Worcestershire (and the only stockist outside London). We organised a bottle to proceed the gin cocktails and ordered 5 dishes from the tapas menu.
From the fish dishes we decided on the king prawns – pan fried in garlic butter and lemon (£6.50) and pan fried seabass in champagne and garlic (£7.50). From the specials we chose the sweet chilli pork (£5.90) and our meat selections were the homemade beef meatballs in a tomato and basil sauce (£5.60) and Marinated chicken and peppers on skewers served with yogurt and mint dip (£5.90). The homemade Hummus and tzatziki with a basket of pitta bread was first to come out from the kitchen.
The dips were presented in jars and it was immediately obvious they were homemade; the tzatziki had a light whipped texture and the dip tasted cool and creamy. The hummus was bursting with flavours of lemon and garlic and finished with a good quality olive oil. We had to shuffle everything on the table around to make space for the prawns and seabass which quickly followed, but they didn’t stay there very long as we got stuck in.
The king prawns were fresh and meaty, marinated in a citrus infused sauce, intensified by small chunks of preserved lemon. The fillet of seabass so elegantly sitting in its champagne juices was enjoyed and devoured just moments later. Next we were presented with a wooden paddle of sweet chilli pork on large couscous (maybe Israeli couscous?), and served with grapefruit pieces, chopped red peppers and red onion. The meat was tender and a warming heat from the chilli was apparent as we took a bite, but not overwhelming. The pork was finished with a sweet, sticky, oriental glaze – a very good choice from the specials menu.
6 huge beef meatballs (a generous helping for tapas) served in a cast iron skillet and covered with a rich, tangy, homemade tomato sauce were bought out to us to try next. The mince was good quality and a dish we would recommend including in your order. Despite our waitress being absolutely correct, 4-5 plates was enough food between the 2 of us, Mr R had a slightly lighter lunch than me on that day and wanted to try more!
Restaurant Manager Mary came over to top up our prosecco and we talked with her about the food and ever expanding gin menu. We took the opportunity at this point to order some deep fried halloumi (£4.90), pan fried garlic mushrooms in white wine (£3.80) and the beef and pomegranate tagine with pink peppercorns (£6.80). Meanwhile we finished eating the marinated chicken, which was a perfectly good dish but maybe not as interesting as the other tapas we had tried. My favourite part being the Moroccan giant couscous with coriander and sultanas.
The pan fried garlic mushrooms tasted to us as if they may have been slightly deep-fried, and we weren’t as keen on them as we thought we would be from the menu description, however the white wine sauce was fantastic. Similarly to the earlier king prawns, there was a strong flavour of lemon which worked really well and I found myself dipping pitta bread into the bowl to mop up the leftover juices.
The halloumi on the other hand was everything we’d hoped for. The hot and squeaky cheese was covered in a crispy, deep fried batter. This we will definitely be ordering next time. As I rarely enjoy eating tagine or slow cooked food (I know, we all have something a bit strange), it was to my absolute amazement that our last dish turned out to be amongst those I had enjoyed the most throughout the evening. The peppery beef gravy was filled out with kidney beans and pomegranate, I’m fairly sure cinnamon was used for flavour.
Curious to know how long the restaurant had been open by the current owner (and chef), Kyle Hassall, we asked Mary who told us it had now been 3 years, launching back in October 2014. Astonished that it had taken so long for me to discover a restaurant this good and only 4 miles from where I live, it left me wondering why? Now that I’ve given Upton’s best kept secret away, be sure to get over to The Boathouse ASAP before the place is fully booked and you can’t get a table!
*The Boathouse have various offers on the menu including their ‘King Tapas’, a selection of 11 dishes (chefs choice) and you can order more at no extra cost (£20pp), Tapas Tuesday Buy any 2 tapas get 1 free (evening) and at lunch time any 5 tapas £20 (every day).
Cost: £58.80 (food only)
10 tapas plates (including hummus and tzatziki)
Upton-Upon-Severn, Worcestershire, United Kingdom – last visited in July 2017
Food hygiene rating is very good 5/5 – last inspection 20th October 2016