Liverpool’s got big love for small plates and one of the city’s best haunts for tasty tapas is Esteban.
Esteban’s has been serving Mediterranean tapas on Lark Lane for the past fifteen years. It is owned and operated by the part Italian, part American, part Scouse, Maranto family, whose other restaurant directly across the street bears the family surname. The name has always sounded fancy and and at first we thought it would translate to something more profound and beautiful than the Anglicised teachings of romance we’ve all come to know. We’ll save you the Google, Esteban, bears only the Spanish version of the patriarch’s name, Steve. We can see why they decided to go with Esteban, Steve doesn’t give the punchy Mediterranean vibe they might have hoped for.
Many moons ago Steve, a Sicily-born man moved to the windy city of Chicago as a teenager. He went from the Italian countryside to the concentre jungle and it took some time to adjust. Steve bled Neapolitan red and his passion for pizza led to him delivering pizzas and after some time doing so he saved up enough to buy the shop off the owner. Whilst visiting back home in Sicily and having a few drinks he bumped into Ruth, a Scouse lass who caught his eye who would end up being his wife. A holiday romance that ended up in I Do’s. This is the part where you say ‘aww’.
Whilst having a pint in The Albert on Lark Lane, an old pub for Navy seamen, he was made aware of a derelict building on Lark Lane and when we say derelict, we mean nothing. They took a punt and as they say, the rest is history. Esteban is now fifteen years old – just shy of being able to buy its own lottery ticket and has seen Lark Lane change so much. The stretch is famous for its Bohemian vibe, eateries and boozers and the weird and wonderful walks of life that gravitate towards there. When the sun is out and shining bright, the out door patio and beer garden saves you the flight to sunny Spain and is comparable to a holiday. Even when the temperatures aren’t as favourable, the glass conservatory is just as spectacular and the cosiness of the main restaurant is welcoming and warm.
We’ve come to know Tapas as mountains of potato bravas with a garlic mayo that smacks you in the mouth, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs in a succulent sauce and prawns floating in a sea of garlic and chilli oil. We’d have gone home happy if that was the case on our night at Esteban but the food was very unexpected. One of the most notable dishes was sea bass with grilled baby gem lettuce and a tomato puree. It was so delicate and a reminder good flavours don’t need much encouragement. We’d quite happily return solely for the four hour cooked crispy belly pork with a silky smooth cauliflower puree, sweet potato rösti and morcilla that has been flown in especially from Spain. It was worth the flight.
Esteban is the kind of place where one meal can turn into a whole evening. Visually, it’s absolutely beautiful and a wonderful place to catch up with a friend and with an ever-changing cocktail menu and lots of bottles of wine, what’s the rush to go home? Although we’d eaten pretty much everything off the menu at the point (for research purposes, obviously) we were reminded of the separate organ we all have for dessert. God bless it, as well. We opted for the classic churros, they came coated in a cinnamon sugar and a dark chocolate sauce we ended up swigging when the waitress wasn’t looking. No regrets. We would also recommend the ‘Licor 43’ – a chocolatey and citrus homage to Spain’s most popular liquor. The praline running through and raspberries on top cut through the bold chocolate goodness and at one point we were wailing in pleasure. Apologies to anyone who had to witness it.