Tapas is one of the hottest forms of dining around right now, and thanks to a new venture from a group of experienced restaurateurs, area diners have a new choice to add to their options list.
Basque, an upscale Mediterranean tapas restaurant and lounge, recently opened its impressive doors on U.S. 19 in Clearwater in the former home of the Wild Fish Nite Club.
And according to partner and executive chef Keith Williamson, they plan on being one of the most desirable dining destinations on this side of Tampa Bay.
“We are a complete Mediterranean tapas restaurant,” Williamson said. “All of our meals are influenced by European dishes — French, Greek, Italian, Spanish.
“We are a scratch kitchen — everything is made from scratch. And all the dishes can be served as tapas style or as main dishes. We want people to come here and dine here.”
Williamson, who has a culinary degree from the Restaurant School of Philadelphia and has worked in Italy as well as at Ocean Prime and Jackson’s Bistro in Tampa, has the experience and knowledge to make the food a draw at Basque.
But many people will be drawn to the place just for its unique atmosphere, chic décor and creative cocktails.
Giant wooden doors mark the entrance, which is surrounded by greenery and fountains, and stone, wood and water can be found throughout the interior, giving the whole place a tropical jungle vibe.
Inside, the dining area is split into two halves with a large stage area in the middle and a bar off to the side that opens to the outdoor patio. The stage will be home to live music as soon as the restaurant is firmly established.
“We thought about doing a late night club type of place... But I want people to come for the food first, then make it an experience and stay later,” Williamson explains.
But he encourages patrons to come for the drinks as well; Basque has an impressive list of creative cocktails available, such as the aptly-titled Basque Experience, which is made with Absolut Citron vodka, muddled berries, champagne and dry ice.
“There’s nothing like this on this strip,” Williamson said of his restaurant. “We’re like on steroids.”
Address: 28910 U.S. 19 N.
Hours: from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday; from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday