GILL HARRIS goes in search of steak but finds Moroccan tapas instead

...and counts herself lucky she did

WE’D set our hearts on steak at a nice little pub out in the country.

So after a long day at work, and much drooling over the online menu, we set off, appetites quickened, along dark and winding country lanes.

And when we got there they weren’t serving food. So we got back in the car and drove back along the dark and winding country lanes and ended up back where we’d started, in Old Town.

A mooch along Wood Street reminded me that Fez had been excellent when I’d last been there a couple of years ago and so we quickly swapped our dreams of steak for dreams of Moroccan spices.

It was surprisingly quiet for a Thursday evening - just a couple of people sitting at the high tables, nibbling on tapas and sipping drinks - which, after our wild goose chase into the depths of Wiltshire, suited us just fine.

Our extremely friendly and helpful waiter took our drinks order — a bottle of Prosecco at £19.95 — and left us to hum and haw over the menu.

The great thing about tapas is you don’t have to decide on just one thing. The bad thing about tapas is it can take some time to decide on the several things you want to try. And the really bad thing about tapas is there’s always something you really fancy but which you have to leave off your wish list.

Having made our choices, we contemplated our table and came to the swift conclusion we had ordered too much for the space — so with the help of the waiter, we decamped to the double table at the back of the restaurant, surrounded by red velvet banquettes, glittering North African tiles and plush red curtains.

Far from the dark and gloomy Swindon night, it felt like being abroad.

Our first choice from the long list of ‘ooh, I fancy thats’ was the artisan bread (£0.95) with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (an extra 50p) with a beetroot and mint dip (£2.95) which, I have to say, was the star of the show. Which is high praise, given that everything on our table was utterly delicious. We couldn’t quite put our finger on the ingredients, but there was a little dash of magic in there somewhere.

Next up was the devils on horseback (£3.50) — lightly grilled dates wrapped in Parma ham. I tried these on my last visit and have remembered them fondly ever since. They are absolute crackers, filling your mouth with a divinely pungent salty sweetness.

The goat’s cheese tostada (£3.50) was very much my choice as my companion doesn’t like tapenade, which was spread on delicious bread and topped with goat’s cheese, date jam, onion and cucumber. Again, they were delicious and I was pleased to find they’d chosen the pungent, oozing style of goat’s cheese rather than the crumbly salty kind.

The first of our larger dishes (from the tapas menu rather than the mezze) was the Merguez with tzatziki (£4.50). If I had to choose, I’d say this was my least favourite dish. The sausages were pleasantly spicy, if a little greasy, and the mint, cucumber and yoghurt dip was a tad creamy for my liking. But that said, it was still extremely nice.

Next up was the Moroccan lamb (£5.50), which had been braised with apricots and coriander, the flavour of which was divine.

Kefta bel harsh (£4.25) followed. These were spiced beef and rice meatballs which hail from the Moroccan capital of Rabat.

Again, they were excellent and perfectly spiced.

We shared a small bowl of couscous (£2.45) as a side, though I was too full to even give it a go.

Our bill came to £47.85, £20 of which was accounted for by the wine, so our food cost us a total of £13.95 each.

What a bargain! We had a banquet of the most delightful morsels and, in fact, had so much food, we each took a doggy bag home, so that was lunch sorted for the next day.

All I can say is thank heavens that pub wasn’t serving food — the food at Fez would surpass a steak any day.


7 Wood Street

Swindon SN1 4AN

Open: Wed & Thur 6pm-10pm; Fri & Sat 6pm-1.30am

Parking: Nearby on street or in public car park

Disabled access: Yes

Our ratings:

Food: 9/10

Choice: 10/10

Decor: 10/10

Customer service: 10/10

Tapas prices: £3.50-£5.50

TripAdvisor rating: 4/5