BUENO, bonito, barato (good, attractive and value for money). Not everyone wants to indulge in extravagant haute cuisine every time they eat out.
Sometimes it can be fun to feast on bite-sized breads, finger food and tasty titbits.
Tapas, to me, always feels like a celebration of food, friends and easy living. Small flavour-packed dishes stimulate the appetite, yet feel light and easy on the digestion, in a way that a three-course dinner seldom does. I'm not the only one who thinks so, it seems!
Many local foodies voted for Lynton's The Oak Room in last year's North Devon Food and Drink Awards. And, in my opinion, it was a very worthy winner of Best Restaurant.
It offers a taste of Spain right here on our doorstep. Owners Steve Gubb-Fradgley and Irene Del Val Martin spend half the year in Spain, seeking out delicious morsels of mouthwatering food to serve to their customers.
The restaurant itself is cosy and decked out in earthy, warm colours – a tactile, arty wall installation of tree trunks adds to this intimate, rustic feel.
For those feeling traditional, there's the option of eating a small dish for a starter followed by a main course.
However, for those on the tapas trail, there are plenty of dainty dishes on themes of potatoes, fish, meat, veggie bites and cheese.
The waiter suggested three tapas dishes per person so we shared Patatas Allioli (tasty fried potatoes with a garlic sauce), Anchovy and Olive (salty marinated anchovies and olives on toasted bread) and Piri Piri King Prawns (king prawns with a spicy kick). All were excellent: quality ingredients served simply and stylishly.
It was nice to be served by staff who were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food. On their advice we also shared a Tomato Salad (simple fresh salad of tomato, onion and garlic oil), Chorizos Pequenos (meaty chorizos with tangy cider) and Provolone (a wonderfully, creamy Italian cheese topped with oregano).
There was a moment when I wondered whether we were going to successfully balance six dishes on our small table but having been forced to play draughts and Jenga as kids, we had enough skills between us to just about manage it.
I'm glad we weren't too over-stuffed to share a pudding. The dark chocolate brandy torte was deep, rich and velvety. A choccie connoisseur's dream. And, as might be expected in a Spanish restaurant, the espresso coffee was perfection.
The Oak Room is a great place for relaxed, informal dining. It makes me keen to discover what other foodie shrines local folk have been worshipping at this year. The North Devon Food and Drink Awards are announced this Sunday.
Where: The Oak Room, Lee Road, Lynton, EX35 6HW.
Cost: The above meal for two with drinks came to £48.80.
Bookings: 01598 753838.