Having had some dialogue with the proprietors of Neon Jamon through various social media and watched in passing the boards go up and then come down outside the Smithdown Place premises, the sense of hope (for a relatively local establishment) was pretty high, although balanced by the understanding that restaurants and bar often need some significant ‘bedding in’ before they hit a stride.
Based upon the event of the opening night, there are a remarkably high number of positives to take home and a sense of satisfaction with the overall experience. The drinks on offer have a good range for those who are enthusiastic about all things Spanish, Alhambra, Mahou and Estrella all present (along with variations thereof, including the most excellent Estrella Inedit – see the earlier blog on Wheat Beer tasting: [http://electrokemistcuisine.weebly.com/1/post/2012/08/wheat-beer-tasting-session.html]) alongside sherry (as per the traditional Valencia Tapas experience), Cava and other wines and a reasonable selection of Brandy.
Having ordered a variety of the tapas on offer, from obligatory crisp and acidity complimented patatas bravas and the earthy combination of morcilla and chorizo (cooked excellently to avoid the chewiness so often the plague of chorizo dishes) to a platter of Iberican cured Jamon, Semi-curado Mahon cheese and delicately meaty pulpo (octopus), reminiscent of a cerviche. The latter of these dishes, supposedly drawn from a recipe experienced by the proprietors in San Sebastian, was cooked brilliantly and thinly sliced to provide an almost poultry-porcine-like texture and steeped in a sauce of finely chopped sweet pepper and lemon oil. There are enough dishes on the menu to provide a new visit for at least 4-5 occasions for those feeling mildly greedy, but the main remit of Neon Jamon is seemingly to instil a sense of Continental calm to the Liverpudlian drinking ethic.
They do not accept bookings for groups of less than eight people, as they wish to maintain the remit of being a bar that offers good food as opposed to a restaurant that works as a bar. The surroundings are comfortable and reasonably lit with garlands of dried chillies adorning the wood and brickwork walls and ceilings. Price-wise, it is comparable to most tapas establishments in the UK, but the portion sizes are on the slightly more generous size than I have experienced recently, which is no bad thing when looking for a decent meal as well as a pleasant dining experience.
The almost puppy-like enthusiasm of the staff at Neon Jamon was refreshingly pleasant in contrast to the often jaded approach taken in some very established restaurants and bars, the staff seemed pleased to talk about any of the dishes on offer and despite a relatively low turn-out (granted for a Monday night this should not be surprising) they did give the right amount of attention to the customers for service, much to their credit. It will take time for Neon Jamon to find its niche perhaps as many new places do; physically abound by the excellent Spire and many pubs and bars nearby, but maintaining the form on show it should not take too long.
The opening night might be an unfair yardstick on which to judge an establishment for current form without having a busy evening to judge service or cooking, but based on the potential displayed, this could the beginning of something pretty special.
Neon Jamon is on Smithdown Place, Liverpool just off Smithdown Road and Penny Lane.
Follow them on twitter here: https://twitter.com/neonjamon or @neonjamon