STEPHEN DAVY-OSBORNE rounds up a selection of chums to celebrate tapas bar’s 10th anniversary

YOU would hope in your tenth anniversary year to make local headlines. And owners of Los Gatos Shareen Campbell and Phil Saunter certainly did during 2016 – championing the rights of their largely European workforce during a very turbulent year for EU nationals.

But while they were busy fighting for the rights of their talented team of chefs and waiting staff, the tenth anniversary of the restaurant opening its doors slipped by somewhat unnoticed. As one of the real jewels in the crown of Swindon’s dining scene, that simply will not do.

To mark the occasion, Team Adver managed to secure a table for eight one busy Thursday evening to see if the restaurant is still packing the punch that has previously seen it named as the nation’s favourite tapas bar. Getting a table was the hard part – Los Gatos remains as popular today as it ever has been, but it is not hard to see why.

Despite our recent run of warm weather, it was bitterly cold on the night of our visit, but stepping up into the restaurant from the street was like stepping into a secret Spanish side street. Gone was the doom and gloom of a dreary Thursday night on Devizes Road, replaced instead with the warm glow of a restaurant buzzing with activity.

Inside there were people enjoying a tasty selection of tapas at every table in the restaurant, and many had spilled over to the bar where they were not only enjoying a tipple from the menu’s exclusively Spanish wine list, but also some of the chef’s own creations too. You get the impression that what started out as just a quick glass of vino after work quickly descended into an evening of pleasant company, fine food and wonderful atmosphere.

Luckily for us, there was a table reserved for us, which we were quickly seated at. A bowl of olives were quickly ordered, along with the obligatory carafe of sangria (not to be missed!) while we familiarised ourselves with their seasonal tapas menu.

As it was somewhat of a group outing, this style of menu was perfect for what we were after - the chance to try all sorts of different dishes, and particularly dishes out of our comfort zones that we wouldn’t normally try, but others in our group would.

In among the dishes we selected were favourites such as calamares fritos (that’s deep fried baby squid with lemon, £4.95) and albondigas (pork and beef meatballs in a paprika-spiced tomato sauce £4.50) but also more exotic dishes such as gambas pil pil (prawns fried in lashings of olive oil with garlic and chilli, £5.25) which were cooked to absolute perfection, with a really satisfying bite to them.

We were also led astray by Adver_Tom, whose love of offal seems to know no bounds (the chicken livers are his favourite dish in Nando’s, and you can forget the prime cuts of steak in Rio’s – if it’s not an internal organ he isn’t bothered). This saw us order the higaditos al oloroso (chicken livers sautéed with sherry, paprika and crème fraiche, £4.50) which I was pleasantly surprised by, although I must admit I am not sure I could manage an entire serving on my own.

I did display an act of solidarity in his one-man mission to promote offal though, and personally chose the morcilla de Bburgos (Spanish black pudding with piquillo peppers and quail egg, £4.75). Most people who move to Scotland come away with a whisky problem, but for me it was an insatiable love of black pudding, and this Mediterranean take on the dish was right on point for me. It was also an incredibly pretty dish to look at too, with the black pudding stacked neatly on top of the peppers, with the wee quail’s egg perched on top.

A few dishes of croquetas del dia (creamy croquettes with various fillings, £5.25) and we were well and truly set. We even attempted to get a Yo Sushi style conveyor belt going around the table with our various dishes, but decided it was just simpler to leave them all in the middle of the table and just dig in as the Spaniards intended.

It’s amazing how filling so many little dishes can be, but we still felt we had a little room for a course to round things off for the evening, and so ordered two boards of three Spanish cheeses (£6.25), made up of Zamorana, softer Mahon, strong blue Cabrales – which was my personal favourite – which came served with deliciously fruity quince jelly. Luckily for me my dining companions weren’t fans of blue cheese. Accompanying these we also had a board of Queso Cabra (a lovely soft Spanish goats cheese, with walnuts and membrillo, £5.95).

After all of that, we certainly felt as though we had done Los Gatos proud and marked their tenth anniversary (and some) in style. We will be sure not to miss another birthday again!

Parking: Public car parks nearby

Disabled access: Step from pavement to restaurant.

Food: 9/10

Choice: 9/10

Decor: 9/10

Customer service: 9/10

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5