The Best Tapas at The Square Orange, Keswick

7 Aug 2019

Visiting somewhere as a kid and visiting that same place as an adult are totally different experiences - this is something that I realised on mine and Alex's recent trip to Keswick. As a kid, you have no say in where you go or what you do. You just kind of have to go along with it and enjoy what's been decided for you. But as an adult, you actually get to make these decisions for yourself, so it's a whole other ball game. I'd been to Keswick a lot as a kid and teenager, and thought it was a pretty, but rubbish place, purely because I'd never got to see or do the things that I fancied. Making the two-and-a-bit hour journey there with Alex was totally worth it though, as we discovered a pretty incredible spot to eat.

The pair of us love tapas. I've always said that if I were to get married, tapas would be my food of choice. That way, if any guests are sat with people they don't know, conversation can be struck up over the food and who knows, they might even discover something new! It's a form of eating that gets you talking and sampling things that you might not have tried before, so it's often our first port of call if we're looking for somewhere to eat in a new place.

After tirelessly looking down the streets of Keswick's centre for somewhere that grabbed our fancy (there are actually lots of gorgeous eateries, just nothing that really grabbed us), we discovered The Square Orange just as we were about to give in to a pub meal. When we saw the bright orange exterior and homemade cakes just by the door, we knew that this place would be the one.
It was clear from the get-go that The Square Orange was a pretty popular spot within the town. Every table was taken, apart from one that was right in the back corner. We had to fight our way past a couple of girls who'd also spotted the free table, but we managed to grab it, settle in and take in the gorgeous surroundings. It was the dinkiest little restaurant that I've possibly been in, with the tables organised neatly against the right edge of the room, while the bar took up the left side. But the thing that made the place even more unique was that because the space was so compact, the kitchen was completely open, joined on to the bar and ran by one person. You could just pop your head over the bar counter and watch the amazing (and surprisingly calm) chef cook everything up right there and then! If you take a look at the photo above - where the chalkboard that has the plates on top, that's the kitchen space!

Because it was so cosy and compact, it gave the place a really comforting vibe and a sort of homeliness that I can't quite explain. The music also wasn't too loud so you could actually talk to your party and we managed to find a board game stash, so atmosphere and comfort-wise, it was absolutely perfect.

Let's talk about the real crown jewel in The Square Orange's cabinet though... the tapas. When it comes to tapas, the smaller the menu, the better. Obviously, you don't want to have four things to choose from, but you also don't want to have 40. You need to get a good balance to let you pick a few favourites out, plus a few options that make you say, 'what the heck is that?' which is exactly what this menu did. With a neat menu of 15 items, we were able to umm and ahh about each one, before settling on four to take advantage of the four for £18.75 offer.
Immediately, we were both drawn to the meatballs, which were cooked up in a chunky, spicy tomato sauce. We figured that these would go brilliantly with the side of crusty bread, which could also be dipped into the sauce, and we weren't wrong! These meatballs were extremely tender and packed full of flavour. Granted, the sauce was a little bit spicy for me, but I just couldn't get enough of the meat. I could quite happily eat them again and the only way that they could ever be better for me is if they were on a mega cheesy pizza. Drool!

We were really keen to include something veggie in our choices because we do like our meat, we are trying our very best to include more veggie options in our eating, so we went for the mini red peppers, stuffed with feta cheese. These aren't something I'd typically gravitate towards because I'm funny about peppers, but the feta cheese grabbed me. They weren't the stand out dish of the meal, but they really added something when paired up with the other bits and bobs. They were delicious when eaten with the meatballs, so they almost acted like a side. Even though they weren't my favourite, they were still beautiful and I would highly recommend.
The absolute standout dish of the whole meal was the chorizo cooked in red wine. Oh my goodness me, if you thought you liked chorizo before, you haven't tried anything yet. I am a chorizo fiend and kind of want it on absolutely everything, so when I saw that chorizo was on the menu, there was no way we weren't having it. In all honesty, I could've quite easily eaten the whole bowl to myself. The bitesize pieces were smoky, juicy and soaked with the most indulgent red wine sauce. Honestly, it was like heaven on a plate. The red wine was lovely when mopped up with the crusty bread, so this was an all round winner from both of us. I might be on a bit of a mission now to re-create this dish, so we'll see how that goes...

Last but not least, we opted for something that neither of us had heard of before. The Morbier Tartiflette was something that neither us could even pronounce, so we assumed that it must be good, and we weren't upset with the choice! This dish was another sort of 'side' and it was basically like a tastier potato gratin. It featured layers of potato, onion and smoked pancetta in a white wine and morbier cheese sauce, so it was super creamy and rich. It paired beautifully with everything, so it's something that I'd quite like to make for us at home and try out with a whole bunch of meals!

While each of these dishes look pretty small, they were so filling and four dishes was more than enough, especially when paired with the beer and gin we were drinking from The Square Orange's extensive bar options. They were brilliant value for money and tasted incredible. You know when you can tell that something is homemade and it just has that taste about it. Yeah, that.

If you aren't too big on tapas, don't let this post put you off! The Square Orange also has a fabulous pizza menu, ciabattas and extra nibbles, all of which are cooked fresh in the dinky kitchen. There are also plenty of vegan and veggie options too, including a pulled jackfruit pizza, which sounds incredible. All of these are homemade in the bar and all the other non-tapas food that I saw coming out looked incredible, so it's certainly somewhere to try, even if you aren't a tapas fan.
Speaking of homemade, while we were full, Alex had been eyeing up the dessert menu behind my head for most of the evening, so I knew that we were going to get a little something to try. You guys know that when it comes to sweet treats, I am alllll over that, so when he suggested we try the Bailey's Creme Brulee. A little known fact about me is that I'm a sucker for Bailey's, until I realised it was like pure fat, so I started to cut back, but as a little treat now and then, it's perfect.

As you can see above, it was served up in a little coffee cup with a side of home baked amaretti biscuits (which were utterly to die for - so much so that we raved to the chef about them). It had the most gorgeous, smashable glazed top and the creamiest, smoothest creme brulee beneath. Initially, I found the Bailey's to be a little overwhelming, but the more I tasted, the more it subdued to that delicious, toffee-esque taste that we all know and love. It was honestly to die for and probably one of the best puddings I've had in a long time. Big claims, I know, but I swear, it was showstopping.
If you hadn't gathered by reading this post, my overall thoughts on this place are that it was a total gem. I'm glad we persevered in our hunt to find that perfect spot to eat and not gone with the first place we found, because The Square Orange was worth the wait. Like I've said, the atmosphere was exactly what you'd want in a restaurant, the food was unbelievable and to top it all off, the staff were incredibly friendly. They didn't even mind it when Alex, in a slightly tipsy state, quizzed them about the history of the restaurant and the little kitchen. It truly was the ideal spot for a date night.

Tell me where your best date night was in the comments below!

The Square Orange (20 St. John's Street, Keswick, CA12 5AS) is open seven days a week from 10AM - 11PM.

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