casa naranjo

Casa Naranjo
Barracks Passage, Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1XA
01743 588 165
A fleeting visit to Shrewsbury in very late November saw Katharine and I wandering down the medieval cobblestoned lanes of Shrewsbury towards this new little tapas bar for a reunion lunch. As we reached the door leading to the upstairs restaurant, we spied a band having a photo shoot a little further up the lane. They stood one behind the other, some wielding instruments (if you can wield a double bass) and others striking a pose. A photographer directed their actions from slightly higher ground. By their stance they looked a bit weary, as if they had been at this for some time and the novelty had worn off. Wonder who they were?

On a Wednesday winter’s afternoon Casa Naranjo was not busy, but the staff were welcoming. Two men, clearly related in some way to the business, ate and talked at a larger table at the back of the restaurant, whilst a lone lady lunched alone with a book nearby. We settled in, ordered two Spanish reds by the glass and starting examining the menu.

Weekday lunchtimes and Monday evenings offer a two-page listing of two tapas for £5, and we didn’t need to go beyond the choices there although the a la carte selection also looked tempting. Katharine  is a vegetarian so our choices reflected that for the most part.

Patatas mixtas (alright, we ordered two of these over the afternoon…) were perfectly cooked however the spicy sauce was a little too full of capsicum for me. Garbanzos (chickpeas) cooked with spinach, Seville-style were just divine. The spicy lentils with vegetables were also a favourite. The dressed Zamorano cheese was just lovely but I think a little too much, especially given that we used the generous basket of fresh bread to help us eat it. It was our gluttony, rather than the cheese, that was at fault. I threw in a tapa of butterbeans with chorizo and onion as token meat-eater, and Katharine ordered the croquettes of the week: cheesy garlicky mouthfuls of heaven.

The bill was just £31 for two, including three glasses of wine which amounted to just under £10. We were stuffed for the afternoon, and in fact I didn’t eat for the rest of the day. The food was great, and the service was lovely, very friendly but on a couple of occasions a little vague: given how quiet the restaurant was, we assumed we had the new guy who was just finding his feet. Indeed, it turned out he had just moved over from near Barcelona to work there.

Definitely a place to return to, especially on a Monday night for a cheap and enjoyable dinner.

>covent garden part 2

>Box Bar, 32-34 Monmouth Garden, Covent Garden

This is a well-established gay haunt just off Seven Dials in the heart of Covent Garden. We visited mid-afternoon on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the crowd was already spilled out on the pavement. The atmosphere outside was friendly, and the fashion was high.
I guess that the atmosphere inside would be cosier inside at night, but the bar staff were efficient and the choice of drinks was good. Only downfall was that the queue for the unisex toilets was quite lengthy, and it would have been a real pain in the ass except for that it was a fun crowd in the queue!
I am told that the fact that two blokes go into the loo at one time is more to do with recreational drugs than lifestyle, but whatever… I just don’t like waiting!

Dial Restaurant & Bar, 20 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden

This was a pretty cool restaurant just beside the Box Bar. We sat at a posh bar and drank cocktails – my new favourite is an espresso martini which is a regular martini mixed with one shot of espresso. Delish!
The crowd was well-dressed and cool, and the bar staff professional and knowledgable. Would love to come back again for an evening drink or even dinner in the restaurant next door. Good music too, and amazing toilets!!

Bunker, 41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden

This is a micro-brewery with the brewing equipment prominently displayed. We spent a pleasant evening in here before, but on the Sunday night we visited it was kind of empty and they had stopped serving food. There was no atmosphere and the music was too loud. Or are we getting old?…

Cafe Pacifico, 5 Langley Street, Covent Garden

This long-established Mexican restaurant is lively and cheerful, and the food is good. Music is Mexican of course, but entertaining. The best part is the cocktails which are generous and yummy!!!

>covent garden part 1

>Sugar Reef, 42-44 Great Windmill Street, London W1V 7PA
The downstairs cocktail bar at Sugar Reef is popular amongst the after-owkr crowd for its happy hour until 7pm. With champagne cocktails at less than £4 and wine at £8 a bottle, it’s not a bad place to start the evening.
The upstairs restaurant looks modern and trendy, and their new “Dynamic Dining” policy is definitely worth looking into. The earlier in the week you eat, the cheaper your food! Mains start off at £6 on a Monday, rising to £12 on a Saturday.
Crowd was hard to measure as it was all after-work. Music was so low you couldn’t hear it and all the seats were taken by pre-booked parties. But for a couple of quick cocktails to start the evening off you could do worse.

Boulevard Brasserie, 40 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7BD
The brasserie’s downstairs wine bar is cosy if a little claustrophic with the low ceiling. Happy hour until 7.30pm offer half-price wines by the bottle – but beware – the prices are slightly inflated compared to the upstairs restaurant so you are really paying more than half-price.
Crowd was a bit odd. The blokes were congregated around the tiny bar and the girls were meeting in twos at the tables.
The upstairs restaurant was lively enough, and the food excellent. Nothing spectacular overall, but not a bad place to meet and have a chat.

Freuds Wine Bar, Basement, 198 Shaftesbury Avenue
This bar, café and gallery is hidden away in a tiny basement up the High Holborn end of Shaftesbury Avenue, is easily overlooked. Inside you will see minimalist décor – bare concrete walls displaying various artists’ work, and basic seating.
The crowd is studenty/arty. But the cocktail list is excellent and the measures big. The toilets are absymal and the music variable. Drop in here for good Mojitos and knowledgeable bar staff who know what a Long Beach Iced Tea is without asking.

>Battersea Rise & Northcote Road

>Babel, Northcote Road
This looked like the most lively bar on the street as we approached, with punters drinking on the street terrace and pretty much standing room only inside, but on closer inspection it was more like an All Bar One clone.
Modern fittings and décor and a reasonable soundtrack made our visit a fairly pleasant one (as did the Olympic men’s 200m sprint heats on the huge TV screens – for me and Sue anyway!) and the people at the next table even attempted a brief but friendly conversation with us! Weird, for London, we thought… Anyway, we reckoned not bad for a quick pre-dinner drink or meet-up point, but not enough style to make us come back.

Holy Drinker, Northcote Road
This little bar was a lot better. The owners describe the place as a grown-up bar for grown-up drinkers. It had a much better crowd, interesting furniture, a weird play list (Sue and I thought it was OK but Orlando was not impressed) and a great vibe.
Orlando even saw Sandy, the Scottish bloke from Big Brother 3, at the bar). We even got talking to the couple beside us (must have been the night for it!). Definitely worth a visit, we would all return.

Iniquity, Northcote Road
This was by far the coolest place we visited. They describe the place as “elegant and louche” and this was exactly what we found inside this black and red interior. My personal favourite was the huge vase of blood-red gladioli on the bar – dramatic and theatrical.
The barman was friendly and helpful, the cocktail list was excellent, the menu looked interesting (sort of tapas from around the world) and the crowd very fashionable. We liked.

B@1 Bar, Battersea Rise
This sister bar to the popular ones in Richmond and Covent Garden was heaving by the time we got there. We didn’t stay as by this time we were looking for coffees which they did not serve (none of us were drinking and there is only so much sparkling water one can drink!). In any event, the music was excellent, the crowd lively and young, and I reckon this would be a good place to start or end the evening. Definitely worth a second visit.

>GDP Index – King’s Road

>Simply Nico
This bar, attached to the restaurant of the same name, is part of the Sloane Square Hotel. Both bar and tables were quiet for a Thursday night, and we didn’t stay long. They got the order wrong, then took ages getting the bill, then had the cheek to stop us and ask if we’d paid even though nobody had bothered coming back to get the signed receipt! We won’t be going back.

This place was great. Floor-to-ceiling drinks behind the bar, and dark décor topped with a huge chandelier. The crowd was an interesting but well-dressed mix and the music was fantastic. A definite favourite.

A couple of doors down from Mojamma, this Latino bar is staffed by cute but non-English-speaking boys (“what is dizzy water please?”). Good cocktail list and the place definitely had possibilities, but there was a gang of after-work office drinkers that lowered the tone somewhat. You know the type, two blokes sniffing around ten girls, lots of tequila, next-morning regrets. Worth a second look, maybe over the weekend. Could be a good lively spot.

Eight over Eight
Should have known this was the sister venue to Notting Hill’s E&O as soon as we walked in. The coolest crowd we saw tonight was in this place, either dining in the sophisticated restaurant at the back, or hanging out in the diner-style seating nearer the street. Excellent service, well-chosen Café-del-Mar music, and the most amazing loos – all black tiles and designer flowers. Looking forward to coming back for dinner!