Review: La Salsa, tapas restaurant in Oldham that prohibits sharing
La Salsa is bold and colorful compared to its surroundings; the exterior of the restaurant contrasts with the gloomy February weather and brings some Spanish warmth to this corner of Royton.
The menu promises a “traditional Spanish dining experience, with a wide variety of flavors that will tickle your taste buds.”
The dining area of the restaurant has expanded, as has the drinks menu – which still bears the name of its predecessor Istanbul Grill, which closed last week.
Drinks can be ordered at the table or directly at the bar; in fact, all dining customers are required to order at least one drink.
Diners at La Salsa are treated to an array of Spanish music, including the Macarena, Tequila, and Nat King Cole’s Cachito.
However, some curveballs are thrown in as well. One song I didn’t expect to hear was Village People’s “YMCA”—a sentiment shared by diners I heard at another table.
When presented with the menu you are immediately confronted with a long list of terms and conditions – something I don’t think I’ve experienced anywhere else I’ve eaten.
The first of the eight rules warns diners that if they come on Fridays and Saturdays, they must vacate their table by 6 p.m. to avoid the more expensive evening surcharge.
A second rule states that ‘sharing your tapas with a guest or your children is not allowed’ – a rather bold rule for a tapas restaurant.
The restaurant has assured customers on Facebook that sharing is allowed — as long as customers pay full price per person eating.
Only three dishes can be ordered per person at a time, with a break between each round – which apparently can be longer on busier nights.
Other diners who came after me also seemed confused by the rules – they immediately wanted to order lots of tapas to share with their group at the table.
I visited the restaurant when it was quiet, but I still had to wait about five minutes after finishing my three dishes before I could order another round.
It wasn’t long before I was served food at La Salsa – testing a new POS system meant I was served calamari, bruschetta, humus en pan and – surprisingly for a tapas restaurant – lasagna before I had even ordered.
Service was friendly – although it was clear the staff were still getting used to the new menu as they asked me to refer to items on the menu by their number – fair enough as it had barely been a week.
As a pescatarian, I had to send the lasagna back, but I was more than happy to eat the rest.
I was excited to try the calamari – it’s one of my favorite dishes, and it’s probably one of the reasons I haven’t been able to bring myself to go full vegetarian – so I was disappointed that it had a rather chewy texture had, meaning I struggled to bite through.
The bruschetta was well presented and tasted as expected, although I would have expected the bread to be slightly crispier on the outside.
The patatas bravas were one of the few items with a more generous portion size. The menu promises that the dish will come in a ‘spicy tomato sauce’, but I thought the sauce tasted bland and reminded me more of a mild Italian pasta sauce than something from Spain.
The potatoes also didn’t taste like they had been seasoned before being covered in the sauce.
I ordered the ‘Queso Manchego’ from the charcuterie section of the menu, which offers meat, cheese and pate.
Described as Spanish cheese served with fresh tomato and olive oil, the cheese was delicious. There was hardly any of it though, and to say the presentation was lacking would be an understatement, with the tomato on the side looking particularly sad.
I felt I was missold when the ‘Mejillones Marinera’ arrived. Described as ‘mussels in a spicy tomato and garlic sauce’, the menu really should have said ‘mussel’, singular, as that was all that came out – a single mussel drenched in a sauce that tasted exactly like the one the patatas were served with bravas.
The Tortilla Espanola, a traditional Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions, tasted good, if not particularly fresh. The slice was very skimpy – a far cry from the thick Spanish omelettes I’ve had in the past.
The ‘Fritura de Pescado’ – battered white fish, served with sea salt, lemon and Spanish garlic mayonnaise was a highlight – although that may be because it reminded me a bit of fish and chips.
Since the restaurant has a rule that allows customers to order only three shrimp dishes per night, I knew I had to try one.
The ‘Gambas Pil Pil’ – prawns fried in olive oil with garlic, hot chili peppers and peppers – taste mild, but not completely bland. The king prawns were smaller than I expected, and there were only two – basically meaning customers are limited to six individual prawns per visit.
Where La Salsa seems to excel is in its extensive drinks menu – still marked with the Istanbul Grill brand.
I ordered a Piña Colada (7.95). The drink was well mixed, had an appropriately creamy texture and was served complete with a stirrer, a slice of orange and a paper straw.
A range of alcoholic beverages, including white wine, rosé, red, sparkling and champagne, and shots were offered.
Cocktails, mocktails and gin are also on the drinks menu, which also states that the restaurant offers a ‘happy hour’ between 5.30pm and 6.30pm, and again from 9.30pm to 10.30pm with an offer of two cocktails for £12 or four shots for £10, not including Jager bombs.
The bar also offers beer and cider on tap.
Overall, my impression of La Salsa was that it would be more appropriate to rebrand as a bar serving food, rather than a restaurant.
Portion sizes were small, even for tapas, and the food was pretty bland. Presentation was not a strong point, but the restaurant’s decor was tasteful.
The ‘terms and conditions’ list on the menu is a strange way to start any dining experience, and the three-dish limit and imposed delay periods feel stingy when the portion sizes are so small.
It’s possible if I could have eaten the meat dishes I would have had a better time, but when I look at the restaurant’s Facebook page I see that the ‘Albondigas a la Jardemera’ or beef meatballs seem to be come with only one meatball at a time. They really don’t want you to share.
The staff were friendly and helpful during my visit, and I would like to thank them for their kindness while I dined at La Salsa.
La Salsa is still listed as ‘Istanbul Grill Royton’ on Google Maps. Reservations can be made via the telephone number of the restaurant: 01706 848036.
A car park is available at the rear of the restaurant, street parking is prohibited by double yellow lines.
Bus routes 57, 403, 805 and 879 run outside La Salsa, with the 181 a five-minute walk away and the 182 and 837 about a 10-minute walk away.
From Oldham town centre, La Salsa is a 2.7km walk, or just over half an hour.
Cycling or driving from the center takes about 10 minutes.
Bus 57 will get you there from the city center in less than 20 minutes. The nearest tram stop is Derker, a mile away on foot.
Development of a nearest tram stop on Cop Road is due to be completed by April 2027.
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