THE column was recently accused of casual sexism in the letters pages of this newspaper.

Your reviewer was called to account for his description of Iris, the Spanish waitress in the Greek Darlington restaurant Santorini as “small, dark and pretty”.

The correspondent took exception because, he wrote, we would never describe a male waiter in such terms.

We plead guilty to a using a phrase that was two thirds factual and one third subjective. We apologise unreservedly to Iris for describing her as pretty, although we have to say she hasn’t been in touch to protest that this characterisation had no bearing on her skills as a server. But then why would she bother taking to task a boring old sexist fart like me? And I did rate the service as 8 out of ten which is very good as in grade A, bordering on first class.

However, as we are living in times when seemingly innocent remarks may come back from an inglorious past to seriously bite you, I’d better serve up a few more apologies.

We’d like to say sorry to Jeremy. He was waiting on at Yorebridge House in Wensleydale a couple of years back when we called for lunch. Sylvia and her friend Carrol were very much taken with his French accent and Gallic charm (oops, is that a bit of casual racism or at very least stereotyping there?) and the subsequent review did dwell at some length on the ladies’ ultimately thwarted intention to take Jeremy home with them.

I now accept this was grossly offensive to Jeremy, disrespectful of his skills as a waiter, and the in-your-dreams fantasies of two ladies of a certain age should never have found their way into print.

An apology, in advance, is also due to Richard. Richard is tall, something of a silver fox and possessing a pair of snake hips that caught Sylvia’s attention on our recent visit to Manchega in Ripon.

While some may say the silver fox description is gratuitous, I am pleading justification, m’lud, for the reference because of Richard’s impressive ability to navigate the closely packed tables of this tiny characterful tapas bar while bearing multiple dishes. It was a wonder to behold.

The same applied to the rest of the serving team which happened to be female. Sorry, that’s the same physical nimbleness, not the snake hips. But that’s not to say anybody was fat. Or too thin. Or anything really. And as to whether they were pretty or plain I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to comment.

The food? Ah, yes – the food. Well, it was really rather good and as we were a party of four, we managed to order the majority of tapas dishes on offer.

Eating tapas as a couple is always slightly fraught for us. Being an old fashioned sort (as of course you know by now) I am loathe to order anything that I know Sylvia will hate and would end up being my sole indulgence.

So with Karin and Philip joining us, it meant I could order, guilt-free because Philip’s very partial, to barenjenas rellenas (aubergines sliced and spliced with grilled red pepper, feta and cream cheese - £4) and , similarly, because they took Karin’s fancy , some boquerones (piquant little anchovy fillets bathed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and parsley - £3.50).

And Sylvia could feast on two lots of spicy patatas bravas (£4) as Philip loves those and albondigas (meatballs marinated in coriander seed, garlic and parsley, served with a tomato sauce - £5) because everybody loves meatballs.

I did indulge myself somewhat with guisantes Ibericos (pea stew with pea-sized morsels of Iberico ham and pancetta topped with a fried egg - £5) which nobody else seemed to want to touch.

More universally acclaimed was the pinchos morunos (pork skewers marinated in garlic, thyme, cumin and paprika and served in a peppery mojo picon sauce - £5.50) and some punchy chorizo acaramelados (spicy little sausages cooked in red wine and honey with caramelised onion - £5).

The biggest hit were the chupachops (lollipops of chicken, bacon and caramelised onion served with a Roquefort cheese sauce - £5). The biggest disappointment were the prawns served in a garlic sauce (£6 x 2) which were anything but king-sized, overcooked and probably frozen.

A dish too far, or one too many, was the tortilla chorizo (£6). Despite being very light and fluffy, it was really quite big, arrived last and we were all mostly stuffed by that stage.

The bill was £105 for a generally splendid array of tapas standards and some more adventurous dishes, supplemented by bread, olives and alioli, a couple of desserts (a pot of chocolate mouse and a crepe - £4 each) and a very lovely, crisp and fruity bottle of albarino (£25).


Manchega, 1 Duck Hill, Ripon, HG4 1BL

Tel: 01765 647554


Open: Tuesday-Saturday 5-10pm; Sunday 5-9pm. Closed Mondays

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 8 Surroundings 8 Value 9