Up to now, Neon Jamon for me has been the undisputed go-to restaurant for Spanish cuisine in the Liverpool area. Although I haven’t frequented the original Smithdown Road restaurant – something which the Hollywood A Lister Samuel L Jackson has over me – I have visited the new Berry Street outlet a number of times. Sadly, the last time we were there, although good, it just didn’t hit the mark as previously.

Tipped off by a Spanish friend, we decided to visit Gracias, just around the corner from the Smithdown Neon Jamon. My Amigo from Granada had enthused about this restaurant, which had only been opened for just under a year. When a Spaniard enthuses about Spanish cuisine being delivered with authenticity, panache and passion – on your own doorstep – you know a visit has to be arranged quickly.

So Sunday lunch it was, and our party of three intrepid Gastronauts sat down in anticipation to the delights we were soon to be served. The restaurant itself is modern but relajante, with the staff very knowledgeable and approachable. It was good to see we were joined for lunch by a Spanish party, always a good sign. Our main dish was to be seafood paella, and to while away the 45 minute wait (all dishes cooked to order), we decided to order four selections of tapas, the base camp for our main course summit. These were Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Morcilla de Burgosand, Gambas al Ajillo, Patatas Bravas, Chorizo Croquettes, and a portion of home cooked bread. All mouth-watering heavenly.

Now, some tapas outlets are, shall we say, slightly parsimonious with their servings, but not so Gracias. These were generous tapas, so much for a moment we did think we had over-stretched ourselves. However, we were reassured that a “doggy bag” was available should we need it. But we steadied, and the offer not heeded.

Shortly after we had finished, and perfectly choreographed, the main course of seafood paella, Paella de Marisco, was served upon the sizzling “la paella”. The rice was perfectly cooked, a suitable resting bed for the numerous prawns and squid that accompanied it. The socarrat, the rice at the bottom of the dish, was perfectly toasted, as well it should be. This was quite delightful, the only caveat being that one of our company found it a tad salty for their taste. However, it was whole-heartedly enjoyed by the rest of us.

To conclude our expedition we ordered desserts of Tarta de Flan y Almendra, Crème Catalan and  Meloso de Chocolate Con Crema de Vainilla. All created within the Gracias casa, again reaching an extremely high standard.

All in all, to paraphrase Bill and Ted, a most excellent culinary adventure. We had climbed the food equivalent of the Sierra Nevada, and had enjoyed both the journey and arrival. The view had been worth it. But such expeditions are not cheap, with the bill, including service charge, shy of £110.00 (one glass of red wine, soft drinks). However, sometimes you have to be prepared to pay enthusiastically to attain the rarefied air where authentic, passion-filled cooking resides. Gracias ticks all the boxes of your “foody” wish-list. If you haven’t yet tried out this restaurant I urge you to do so. It’s so authentic and so very, very special.

Steve Kinrade