HAVING lived in Spain when I first graduated, tapas is one of my absolute favourite types of food.

You might share my surprise then when I found a new tapas bar in my childhood coastal town of Seaham.

This up-and-coming part of the East coast is becoming more and more popular since it was redeveloped and I had heard good things about The Lamp Room, on North Terrace.

I instantly liked this intimate little venue with its warm atmosphere and appreciated the little touches that displayed a pride in the region’s mining heritage such as the little mining figurines and real lamps.

Having my usual bad luck when it comes to being seated, my online reservation for a cute window table ‘had been overlooked’ and we were originally seated at the back of the restaurant – which is considerably colder and next to the toilets.

However, being with my fiancé Ali, sister Caroline and brother-in-law, Ryan, my luck seemed to have turned when the waitress came back to us and offered us a better table right next to the cocktail menu.

I had visited before so I knew how good their coffee was but I’d never been for an evening meal and was quite intrigued to see what kind of tapas would be on the menu and most importantly, if it could come close to taking my taste buds back to the Costa del Sol.

I was also surprised to find a specials seafood menu alongside the tapas and felt immediately disappointed that I could not sample both as part of the review.

As a compromise, we decided to share the seafood sharing platter for two (£48.95) while also ordering ten tapas dishes – they normally recommend five to seven dishes per person but you can order five for £22.45.

We went for the halloumi and chorizo, patatas bravas, sliders (trio of burgers), chicken and chorizo paella and pork dim sum while our second lot was pork dim sum, arancini (deep fried mozzarella and risotto balls coated in breadcrums), tomato and garlic bruscetta, duck spring rolls and chips with dips.

After ordering all of these dishes, I suddenly realised why our table was so big! But I was pleasantly reassured when some of the tapas came out stacked in little dishes, leaving plenty of room for the huge seafood platter that took up the majority of the space.

The platter itself had an impressive list of components which were put together almost as an art and featured fresh whole lobster, black mussels, trio of crab cakes, lightly battered Whitebait, three large King Prawns, calamari and lobster claw-meat in a light lemon mayo dressing which were all served with a selection of dips and hand-cut chips.

I think it’s safe to say we were all drooling at this point and it was lovely to feel like I was transported back to my Spanish evenings when you could sample several dishes at the same time.

Without doubt my favourites were the crab fishcakes, which were beautifully crispy, and the lobster meat, which was tender and cooked perfectly.

Of the tapas, the paella was full of flavour with thick, sticky rice and chunks of chorizo while the bruschetta was exactly how I remember it with plenty of tomatoes which complemented the balsamic vinegar and oil beautifully.

Dishes we were not so keen on was the new Polpette, which promised to be meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce but was actually quite dull, and the arancini, which was a bit too stodgy for my liking.

However, we were glad we ordered a jug of sangria (£14.95), which complemented all the dishes brilliantly and was lovely and chilled.

You might be surprised that we did manage to consider dessert and, being a pudding lover, I had my dessert space reserved especially.

I was disappointed to find my favourite option had been ‘ruined’ when I read chocolate ORANGE fudge cake but it gave me the perfect excuse to try something different with the strawberries and champagne sorbet (£4.95). If I could afford it I would have a tub of the sorbet in my freezer every week without fail.

Ali, on the other hand went for the white chocolate crème brulee, which he said was creamy and passed the spoon crack test with flying colours.

Knowing how good the coffee is, I also could not resist ordering a nightcap coffee and went for a caramel macchiato which was huge in the regular size but finished the night perfectly especially with the smooth caramel sauce on top (£2.40).

I always believe that when you have good food and good company you will have a great night so it didn’t surprise me when I looked up and realised we were the last ones in the restaurant.

It was nice that we weren’t rushed though and the staff were happy to quietly work around us as they finished a busy shift.

All in all, I would say this little gem is well worth a visit and even though booking is a must and you might slightly faint when you see the bill, it’s definitely a meal I will remember for a long time.

Food Facts

20 North Terrace, Seaham SR7 7EU

Tel: 0191-903-3747

Open: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5pm; Friday and Saturday, 6.30pm to 11pm

Food quality 8, Surroundings 8, Value 7, Service 8