Distinctive in its appearance both inside and out, Kazbar on the Cowley Road is well-liked by locals and visitors alike for its excellent cocktails and warm ambience. The décor inside transports you to southern Spain with Moroccan lattice candles, curved archways, intricate metal work, bold mustard yellow walls and plush cushions adorning the seats. What could have been horrendously tacky actually works wonderfully in creating a relaxed, exotic atmosphere. In the evening, the lighting is low, made up of candles and spotlights, to create an intimate environment, making it an ideal place for a date night - the couple nearest us took full advantage of this, which was a little off-putting.
Having whet our appetite with a glass of Mahou, we ordered a selection of tapas from their well-assembled menu. We began with crusty ciabatta, nutty manchego cheese with quince jelly, and salty jamon Serrano – a perfect way to ease into the meal. We’d hoped to have the banderillas (anchovy-wrapped olives) but made do with the marinated olives which were an interesting assortment of types and herb combinations, making for an attractive alternative. The gambas y chorizo and the albondigas (beef and pork meatballs) in a tomato and paprika sauce encapsulated the taste of traditional (if slightly Anglicized) tapas while the tender Duroc black pig cheeks in Mayador cider brought unusual and deep flavours to the meal. It wouldn’t be grillo to visit a tapas restaurant without having the establishment’s patatas bravas so we dutifully inhaled their take on the classic dish – while not overly spicy or as full of flavour as others I’ve tried, I liked the inclusion of caramelised onions which added an enjoyable sweetness. The warm salad of oak-roasted peppers, chargrilled baby artichokes and goats cheese was a welcome addition to the meal as provided a nice change in taste and texture, balancing out the more tomato-heavy dishes with its bold freshness. Not satisfied with the number of prawns in with the chorizo, we opted for the gambas al pil pil (prawns in a chilli, garlic and herb butter) which fulfilled our seafood quota amply.
The plates came out gradually, meaning that by the time we had received the rest of our order we’d accidentally demolished the bread before we could utilise it to scoop up the delicious sauces. We chose ten tapas dishes over the course of the meal, assessing our greediness as we made our way through the incoming plates. The portion sizes are perfect for tapas and work well in a group setting. Dietary requirements seem to be well catered for and clearly labelled on the menu, and its easy to adjust your meal choices to fit within a budget.
With room to spare we tried the baklava with lebna. The sourness of the strained yogurt just about worked with the sticky sweetness of the flaky baklava but was a bit too piquant on its own for my taste. The service was quick (we had ordered and eaten two courses and paid within 45 minutes!) and the waiting staff were pleasant and helpful when ordering, making the experience all the more pleasing. While Kazbar isn’t king when it comes to delivering outstanding tapas, the venue, its staff and the very decent menu make for a relaxed and cosy place to hang out with friends, for a romantic meal or to just enjoy a few drinks and snack on tempting tapas.
£61.90 for ten portions of tapas, a litre of Mahou, desserts and hot drinks.