RESTAURANT REVIEW: K-Pasa, Glossop Road

WHAT'S in a name? Well, it says something about your heritage, your identity, your reputation.

So if Primark was taken over by Harvey Nicks, or Park Hill Flats was turned into a swanky hotel, you'd expect a new signboard to go up within days, right? Well, not necessarily.

K-Pasa has been a landmark in Glossop Road for the last 15 years and it's going to stay that way, despite having undergone a half-million-pound transformation.

"It's a good name; everybody knows it," says new owner Mohammed Tafique…

Some will say he's missed a trick, but Taf, of Nether Edge, knows his stuff. He has more than 20 years in the restaurant industry, from Indus at Attercliffe (which he bought in 1986) to the Raj in Abbeydale Road and Casa Miguel in Hillsborough.

He first worked in K-Pasa as manager, when it was owned by his cousin, but in March he bought the place and set about making the changes he thought were needed.

For a start, he knocked down interior walls to turn the three rooms into one. He made a new open kitchen the focal point, created a bar area at one end and moved most of the toilets down to the basement.

Then he scrapped the primary colours and the wipe-clean table cloths, replacing them with a new theme of black, white and cherry red, and a striking lime green feature wall. The identity is defined by big arty canvases, inspired by the name, padded leather chairs and tables of polished wood to match the floorboards.

"This is a big investment, but we wanted to go upmarket," says Taf.

"It may not be the best time to spend the money, but I'm pleased with the result. People seem to like it, though it's not working quite as I'd intended…"

The problem, he's found, is that old habits die hard. And while the name K-Pasa is above the door, customers expect to come in and find all their old favourites, including fajitas, burritos and chimichangas.

"They weren't on the new menu, but we've had to put them back on. That's what we're here for; we don't want to turn anybody away. If people have been coming here for 10 years, it's difficult to expect them to change."

So, for the time being, the old favourites will remain – alongside a whole range of dishes introduced by the new team.

All staff have been replaced – this lot know a thing or two about service and it shows.

In charge of the five-strong team of chefs is Ihlak Mahmood, formerly of Milano in Archer Road. Isn't it tricky expecting a Pakistani chef, from an Italian restaurant, to specialise in Latin food?

"He's surprised us all – people have said his is the best paella they've ever had!"

The new emphasis is on fresh food. Everything is prepared to order and nothing is bought in except the desserts, but even those are hand made.

There's a standard menu, a specials board and a changing lunch menu.

Once the Christmas rush is over, passers-by will be welcome to call in any time for coffee and cake.

Tapas and starters range from patatas bravas (2.95) and soup of the day (4) to pan-fried sardines (4.50) and mussels in wine, onion, garlic and cream (6.95).

Mains include Italian and Mexican staples, pizzas to fajitas, but there's also a wonderful range of chicken, steak and fish dishes: salmon thermidor (14.95), pollo cacciatore (12.95) and linguine de mare (8.95).

The wine list is eclectic, both in content and price. Prices start at 11.95 (4.20 per glass); we go for a plummy Chilean cabernet sauvignon that's perfect with the Mediterranean mood.

A starter of Portuguese caldo verde soup is substantial, more like a stew, with a good, thick stock, bite-sized chunks of meat, chorizo, potato, onion and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

My tuna is spot-on: big pieces of fish, moist and meaty, in a beautifully rich tomato sauce perked up with juicy black olives and capers.

On to the main course and I can't miss out on that acclaimed paella. It's every bit as good as Taf claims – a traditional Spanish feast, crammed with shell-on mussels, pieces of chicken breast, squid, peppers, onions and garlic, all cooked into a deliciously creamy concoction with lush, saffron-infused rice.

My companion goes for frango: chicken breast stuffed with a spicy mixture of chorizo, chilli and cheese, wrapped in smoked pancetta, sprinkled with aromatic coriander and served with salad, crisp roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips – a real Latin feast.

We've eaten our fill by this time, but the temptation of creamy cheesecake, with a biscuit crumb base and fresh raspberry coulis, is too much to resist.

We finish our meal with coffee. Dinner for two, excluding wine and service, is 41.35.

Verdict: Que pasa? Quite a lot's happening, is the answer. And it's worth a visit to this new-look Glossop Road landmark to experience the changes for yourself.

Open: noon-11.30pm, Monday-Saturday; 5-11pm on Sundays.

K-Pasa, 290 Glossop Road, Sheffield 0114 2728260 www.k-pasa.co.uk.