I happened upon an old friend the day before yesterday – Miss Ellie Wicks – and, in light of the fact that we went from seeing each other once a month to once a year, we decided to go for lunch in Westbourne as we both had the day off.
Circo Lounge is a place I have often passed en route through the town of Westbourne and never tried. I was very glad that we did, because the meal we had was stupendous. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but you go in and the apparently-understated café actually extends a lot further back than you’d expect, with a bar and terrace at the far end. That area of the restaurant was not very well-lit however, so Ellie and I took our seats nearer the front.
We started by ordering cocktails – Ellie choosing a drink entitled Cherry Bakewell and I ordered a Jamboree Daiquiri (see both pictured). Mine tasted like very rich fruit juice, in all honesty – awfully sweet, as one of the ingredients is blackberry jam. Ellie’s drink, a concoction of rum, Amaretto and cherry juice was utterly gorgeous (full recipes for the pair of these will be featuring in a couple of Cocktail Columns in the near future). We bought these in view of the fact that on Tuesdays, the Circo Lounge run an offer on Tapas – three dishes for £9.75 with a glass of house wine. To our disappointment, this offer only runs from 5pm onwards so we were too early.
However, all this being said, we had already perused the Tapas menu and found things we liked. Without the offer, the Tapas are still three for £9.25. Among the things we did not choose were 5-Spice Pork, Mozzarella Balls and Sweetcorn Fritters with Sweet Chilli Sauce.
Both of us had been saying on the walk into Westbourne at how much we fancied Greek food, so the Lamb and Mint Koftas with Tzatziki seemed an irresistible option. I am a sucker for Chorizo at the best of times, even when on a diet I cannot say no. And in an attempt to redeem myself for that, I also opted for Goat’s Cheese Pearls with Basil Pesto and Tomatoes (both Sun-dried and Cherry). Ellie is a lover of sweet potato (I am not), so to go with her koftas, she chose Sweet Potato Falafels with a Sour Cream and Chive sauce, and in following with her Greek theme, Pan-fried Halloumi.
Well just look at that spread. I think people underestimate the size of tapas; they compare them to canapés – something that couldn’t possibly fill a person for lunch. Much as I think they would make good ideas for appetisers if they were shrunk even further, I beg to differ on this point, at least in this case. To add a little substance, each selection of tapas comes with a bowl of ciabatta bread, which in most cases is a delightful addition to any table.
Well I wasted no time in digging into these Lamb Koftas. The Greek culinarians are legendary for the things they can do with lamb, and rightfully so. Much as I love it slow-cooked over several hours (as I am planning for an upcoming dinner party), I cannot say little balls of sumptuously tasty meat on the end of some cocktail sticks, lightly dressed in tzatziki sauce (which for some reason I thought was a hot sauce), is anything to sniff at! Pity that I finished that little bowl off first, really.
Then I moved onto my second dish – the Goat’s Cheese Pearls. Not as Goat’s Cheese-tasting as I had imagined – in taste and texture they more resembled the soft cheese you get in a Dairylea triangle. But with the fresh-leaf basil and the pesto, as well as the tomatoes, they still made for a good choice.
Onto the third part of lunch, the Chorizo with lemon, which is quite self-explanatory as you can imagine – it was the proper, chunky Spanish sausage, not the wafer-thin slices you buy at Asda for sandwiches. This is the main point at which the ciabatta bread came in handy. The sausage had dripped all its paprika juices into a pool at the bottom of the dish, which was perfect to flavour the otherwise-bland bread.
As I said earlier, tapas are frequently mistaken size-wise for appetisers and while the ideas are good they do make for a substantial meal. But true; they’re not quite enough to fill a person of such gluttonous appetite as Ellie or I. We simply could not resist a Sticky Toffee Pudding (see pictured) and another cocktail. The barman at Circo is something of a mixologist and had been perfecting a new drink that was yet to be priced or put on the menu, yet he offered it to us anyway. It was, in his words, “a sort-of Peach Mojito” (see pictured below). And Ellie and I were the first people bar the creator himself to ever try it – that’s our claim to fame if it ever takes off!
This Sticky Toffee Pudding was in a word, perfect. Absolutely dripping in the butterscotch sauce that made it so attractive in the first place, as well as the slightly-melted vanilla ice cream. While that tasted absolutely wonderful on its own, the Peach Mojito took a little longer to earn our good grace. I don’t suppose peach, mint and toffee and butterscotch are flavours that compliment one another very well. On this new drink, I can only say that – while a very good choice on our part – there are improvements that need making. More peach flavouring, for a start, and less ice – both that and the mint flavours are greatly overpowering and the peach after-taste is all that remains.
I am not an expert on the dining locations of Westbourne (even though before I took up restaurant critique and entered the catering industry, I used to work there). Circo was definitely a good place to start, and while I don’t make a habit of revisiting places I have reviewed in the past, in this case I may make an exception.