TAPAS as a dining style is becoming increasingly popular in south Cumbria, with a number of places tapping into the trend for small dishes of food, writes Louise Allonby.

The latest to join the fray is the recently-opened Odd Frog in Barrow, a tapas bar and live music lounge on the corner of Duke Street and Ramsden Square.

The large building has had many incarnations over the years. Readers of a certain vintage will remember it as Sylvester's, then Legends (or Leg ends, as it was known) and then the Drawing Room.

As the Odd Frog, it is already making its mark as a welcome addition to Barrow's entertaining and dining scene. I went along on Wednesday for an early evening meal and catch up with two of my oldest (well, longest-standing) friends. We arrived at 5.30 to find the somewhat cavernous dining area empty but for a large of group of diners. Tables around the walls, however, were all sporting reserved signs for later on - and it's clear that the evening crowd come for the live music as well as the tapas.

We settled ourselves near the stage and took in the surroundings. High ceilinged and simply furnished, the Odd Frog is clean and light. To my eye, it could do with some softening around the edges but I expect this slightly sparse decor has been chosen for acoustic purposes, given the emphasis on live music.

Food worse, the Odd Frog has a wide variety, as one would expect of a tapas restaurant. Taster menus are available ranging from £30 per person for one, down to £20 a head for groups of four or more.

We decided to mix and match from the main tapas menu and, over glasses of Pinot Grigio and merlot, we chose the following: patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla, padron peppers, tiger prawns with chilli and garlic, poached salmon with beetroot slaw, Spanish meatballs with a poached egg, and chicken breast stuffed with cheese and bacon. Phew! The dishes range in price from £5 to £7.50, which is pretty much par for the course for tapas food. No one goes for tapas expecting bar meal sized portions and, as our evening progressed and the food kept appearing, the small portions suited us just fine.

There wasn't a duff dish among those we tried. I particularly liked the padron peppers, which were nicely chargrilled and made a great accompaniment. The prawns were tender and the meatballs small and spicy, with a perfectly poached egg on top. Clearly, the chef knows his or her stuff, my only quibble being the slightly overcooked chicken breast. These are not blow your mind tapas dishes, but they're very good indeed.

Service was efficient and friendly, the young man who served us being helpful and humorous - a good combination.

Around us, the tables were filling up and the band had arrived. Background music before the live act was eclectic to say the least, with heavy rock pounding when we arrived, which seemed over the top for a midweek teatime.

I'm not sure where the name of the place comes from. References to frogs (odd or otherwise) weren't obvious; and the amiable amphibians' legs don't feature on the menu.

None of us being in the mood for loud live music, we left the Odd Frog and strolled up Duke Street to the Aspire cocktail bar. Nice (ish) cocktails but they stop serving at 10pm. Now, that is definitely odd.

The Odd Frog, Barrow

Marks (out of five)

Food 4

Service 4

Atmosphere 3

Value 4


Quality tapas

Lunchtime deals

Live music


It's not cheap

Dining area minimalistic