For many people, Friday night used to mean a night in and a chippy tea but things have changed an awful lot in Sheffield.
Take a walk round any neighbourhood and you’ll find hungry customers tucking into a range of different cuisines.
From pizza to pasta and to seafood and sushi, Sheffield has become synonymous with fine dining and a wealth of eatery options.
So, when me and my girlfriend fancied a taste of Latin America, we knew we wouldn’t have to look far.
La Mama has earnt its rite as one of the most well-respected and well-visited restaurants in Nether Edge and, considering the competition, that’s no easy feat.
The tapas restaurant prides itself on offering the ‘perfect authentic Latino atmosphere in which to serve to you our award winning, traditional Latin Tapas dishes from our native Chile and Spain.’
And as soon as we stepped on the patio outside (where I can already see myself spending many evenings in the summer) I could tell they’d be true to their word.
We arrived at the Abbeydale Road restaurant and were welcomed by smiling faces, warm interiors and the smell of home-cooked food wafting from the nearby kitchen.
After sitting down and scouring the menu, we (just about) amicably settled for a choice of six tapas; one for me, one for her and four dishes to share.
Thankfully the menu was neither sprawling nor overwhelming but it quickly became clear how La Mama conduct their business.
They pick their favourite dishes and then perfect them.
There was no hint of a work in progress menu with a plethora of half-thought out meals. La Mama concentrate their efforts into a handful of meat, fish and vegetarian meals and make sure they are spot-on before sending them out.
The night was not without its hiccups though, with the minutes ticking by as we eagerly anticipated tucking into our tapas.
We were informed there had been a slight waiter to kitchen mix-up and our order would be a bit delayed.
But I’ve been to enough restaurants to know there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle these unavoidable situations. Our waitress couldn’t have been more apologetic and the complimentary olives and round of drinks definitely helped.
I started with the Empanadas de Carne; two beef, onion and olive pastry parcels that had been lightly fried and served with the perfect accompaniment of salsa.
We moved on to the Chipirones a la Plancha (pan friend baby squid), Merluza (hake loin cooked in a traditional clay pot) and Ceviche de Pescado (La Mama’s fish of the week cured in lime juice and fresh herbs).
The food was definitely worth the wait, with each dish a melt in the mouth success.
While some may worry a tapas restaurant may not be the best bet for vegetarians, La Mama has ensured theirs is a restaurant everyone can enjoy.
Rather than just an afterthought, the two vegetarian dishes were some of the best of the night.
The Berenjenas al Horno (oven baked aubergine) and the Sopaipillas al Pebre (lightly fried pumpkin bread) left us wishing we’d sampled more of their vegetarian offerings.
With many of the dishes costing less than £6, (the exquisite cerviche the most expensive dish on the menu at £8) we were pleasantly surprised when the bill read £50 at the end of the evening.
As we left, we were handed a customer loyalty card with three visits promising a free tapas dish and six ensuring a bottle of house wine.
With summer fast approaching, I’m confident that we’ll be enjoying a complimentary bottle of red on La Mama’s cute outside patio in no time.