With summer barely a stone’s throw over the horizon, it’s hard not to let your mind wander to sandy Spanish beaches and salsa bars.
Especially on a drizzly spring evening in Northampton.
But, believe it or not, it is possible to find a slice of your exotic seasonal holiday at Sol Y Luna, a cosy tapas bar near the town centre.
Located just past the Racecourse in Kettering Road, it comes with terrace, heated outdoor marquee and a steady supply of hispanic tunes.
From the moment you walk through the door, the tunes alone already make for a refreshing change from the usual elevator music”that tends to serenade at most high-street restaurants.
While the terrace was out of the question – due to the aforementioned drizzle – and we felt the outdoor marquee in June might still be a little ambitious, a table for four in the smaller main restaurant still provided an ideal spot for a girl’s dinner out.
The decor was simple, rustic and authentic – especially the paprika tin cutlery holders - and the food was brilliant.
The great thing about tapas – or pinchos, depending how you like them served – when in a group is that there is no faffing with balancing starters and mains and, above all, there is no risk of food envy.
After taking our pick from the very reasonably priced wine list – I chose a small glass of the house Castillo de Piedra tempranillo at £3.75 – we ordered six plates to share.
Most of them were selected from the specials menu, freshly chalked onto the wall in Spanish. With translations, thankfully.
Each dish was decently sized, with the number of people at the table taken into consideration, and came with a bowl of crusty bread and a generous helping of alioli dip.
We went for the classic battered squid rings and patatas bravas, which both arrived perfectly cooked through; hot and crispy on the outside and soft and tender, not dried out, on the inside.
For the meat-eaters we made a good choice with the chistorra, a type of chorizo sausage, cooked with bacon and roasted red pepper sauce, and a spiced pork kebab called pincho moruno.
But the favourites by far were the crunchy ham croquettes and a thick slice of goats cheese, topped with crispy peppers and basil, which was more than enough to feed four.
The only food disappointment was that they had run out of the traditional churros and chocolate dessert. But the crema catalana, caramel ice cream and almond Santiago cake that other customers were ordering looked like pretty good alternatives.
Aside from the delicious meal, which arrived quickly and more or less at the same time, the staff themselves helped to add that holiday feel.
Mostly Spanish, which always adds to the authenticity, they were polite, charming and really made us welcome.
However, while they were keen to take our drinks and food orders at the beginning, the attention did begin to tail off and it took quite a while to flag someone down for another portion of bread to share.
That said, at an overall price of about £8, excluding the drinks, there was very little to complain about.
Even on a school night guests were coming in through the evening and, with the chefs ocassionally popping out to the bar, there was a really relaxed and cheerful atmosphere.
We had barely sat down when one of my friends said she felt like she was on holiday, and another said the place proved tight competition with other tapas bars in town.
All in all, Sol Y Luna made for a lovely evening out with the girls and is well deserving of its Trip Advisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence.
Whether with family or a partner I would be happy to retun – even just for another vino at the bar.
Service: Friendly but distracted
Disabled access: one step to terrace
Parking: Plenty onsurrounding streets