FROM the moment you step foot in this quirky and quaint bar it is obvious that brothers Joe and Ben Wright know their stuff.
Their restaurant Joseph Benjamin has rightly earned a reputation as one of the best places to eat in Chester over the past couple of years.
Tucked away under the City Walls, Porta is the brothers’ attempt to recreate the small and independent bars found in big European cities.
Having spent a few months living in Andalucia, I was intrigued to discover how Porta would measure up to Seville’s trademark tapas bars.
The building has an unusual split-level layout but it certainly looks authentic with bar stools, candles, posters on the walls and the chef – also imported from Spain – working on the plancha grill behind the bar.
I had arranged to catch up with a friend over a few beers and there were four or five tables filled.
with office workers, couples and tourists when we arrived at about 8pm.
We chose to perch ourselves on a couple of stools in the sunken dining area and scanned the menu while four waitresses busily shuffled around the bar collecting orders and delivering plates.
Alongside classic tapas staples such as tortilla and patatas bravas are more unusual dishes including slow roast pig cheek and deep fried aubergine.
We each ordered a pint of Estrella Damm, brewed in Barcelona, to help us decide which of the dishes we wanted and eventually settled on five to share.
Some cured meats, spicy chicken wings, croquettes and the predictable Spanish omelette and patatas bravas arrived one by one over the next five minutes.
Portions are generous and all of the dishes are created with ingredients sourced from across Europe.
My friend and I dived straight into the tasty mixed plate of chorizo and Milano and felinetto salami before sharing the tortilla, which was drizzled with olive oil.
The patatas bravas, fried potato cubes covered in a rich and spicy tomato sauce, did not last long and were incredibly moreish, forcing us to agonise over whether or not to order a second helping.
Our chicken wings pimenton were not as spicy as expected but had been cooked to perfection and were deliciously moist with plenty of meat on the bones.
Potato croquettes do not feature highly on my list of favourite foods, bringing back unhappy memories of unappetising school dinners and semolina, but I have been forced to reassess.
Our plate of three large croquettes was exceptionally good, each croquette was stuffed with creamy mashed potato and salty ham and I could have happily stayed for the night and eaten as many as the chef could prepare.
Porta sets out to capture the essence of those splendid family-owned bars you can stumble upon in big European cities away from the tourist traps.
When we had settled our bill and begun to head for the door I half expected to step out onto a secluded Spanish backstreet instead of a rainy path in Chester suggesting the Wright brothers’ mission has been accomplished.
Chicken wings pimenton £4.95
Patatas Bravas £3.50
Croquetas jamon £4.50
Salami. Chorizo, Milano, Felinetto £5.95
Three pints of Estrella Damm £3.90 each
See full story in the Leader