I’ve heard a lot of rave things about Rico Libre, inconspicuous in a small side street down in Digbeth, since they opened. So would their ‘tapas with a twist’ live up to the hype?
We left it late to book, but on a Friday afternoon they were able to squeeze us in to their early sitting that evening which was great. It was already busy when we arrived at 605pm and we were led to a table in the back room. It was a small intimate space complete with only 2 tables, small sofa and piano, and not quite the vibe coming from the front room but this was ok for me.
Rico Libre is BYO, but you can order soft drinks there, which was fine for us that night as we were driving. The menu is split into a couple of sections, the main tapas section which is 3 dishes for £12, specials at £5 each and some smaller things like breads and olives. Between the two of us we chose some bread and olives, 3 of the standard tapas dishes and 4 of the specials, including one which wasn’t on the menu (the chef does ‘special specials’ according to what produce he has and what he feels like – which is fab). So what did we eat?
- Albondigas Jardinera – Meatballs in a rich tomato sauce
- Calamares – Deep Fried Squid Rings
- Patatas Brava’s – Fried Potatoes with rustic tomato
- Quail – whole quail in a green mojo sauce
- Conejo Al Salmorejo – Rabbit in a white wine , thyme and garlic sauce
- Scallops – served with a mango coriander salsa
- Duck – with goats cheese, chestnuts and figs
I really liked the sound of a lot of the dishes, and it certainly fit its tapas with a twist description, a nice mix of classical and more unusual dishes.
The Calamari was well cooked with a nice light batter and tasty garlic dip, another hit was the scallops which were plump and perfectly cooked with the mango and coriander which for me is a match made in heaven.
Slightly less successful was the quail and the rabbit; loved the green mojo sauce and sweet pomegranate seeds with the quail, but we found both meats a bit overcooked and them both a bit bland, they just didn’t hit the spot like we felt they should. The meatballs were juicy and soft and the sauce had a nice hit of spice and depth of flavour but they were a little on the ‘cool’ side, and the patatas bravas were a decent version of something that can be either glorious or ghastly.
Lastly the chefs special of the duck – and the winning dish of the night for the both of us. Pink duck, creamy goats cheese, soft chestnuts, sweet figs and a scattering of bitter herbs was a magical combination really imaginative and got the tastebuds working in overdrive. Big thumbs up!
Our service throughout was nothing but friendly and accommodating and the food was served in a timely fashion too. We were less keen on the gaggle of people that were sent into the back room to wait while a table ‘misunderstanding’ was figured out, the room was small and I didn’t really like finishing off my meal with the bum of another person practically sitting on the edge of our table. But maybe thats me being picky. And not really the fault of Rico Libre themselves, I understand!
In summary, a lovely meal over all with some big hits but also some misses in terms of the food, but a great vibe and great staff. I enjoyed it, but I’ve had better tapas in the Midlands.
Disclosure: We paid in full for our meal and the staff did not know we may write about the experience.