Harden's survey result
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“Sensational” Basque tapas (Donostia = San Sebastián) – “true to the region and featuring seasonal specials” – win ongoing acclaim for this “casual” bar, arranged around an open kitchen, whose “enthusiastic” owners also run nearby Lurra. “Sitting outside on a summer’s evening feels like another world from the hectic hellhole that is Marble Arch”.
“Simply amazing” and “authentic” Basque tapa/pintxos are dished up by “really helpful” and “knowledgeable” staff at this “stylish yet informal” fixture, “in a quiet corner north of Marble Arch”. See also Lurra.
“Take your taste buds to the very heart of San Sebastian”, at this “authentic Basque tapas spot” near Marble Arch, which offers “perfectly executed morsels” and “amicable” service in an “intimate” and “classy” setting.
For many reporters, this popular yearling near Marble Arch offers “tapas with a Basque influence” which are “far superior to that of most rivals”; the occasional sceptic, though, tends to the view that it’s “not worth a special trip”.
Donostia Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Beware to specify table rather than bar counter if that is your desire. Cramped, buzzy, a slick oepration."
"Small menu and small restaurant but delicious Spanish food. Very good value lunch menu."
"Really liked the food - the mixture of pintxos and other tapas was very appealing, everything we ate we enjoyed. It was let down by service - although obviously tapas dishes don't all arrive together, some were very, very slow and had to be chased up. They explained they were very busy with two large groups and one dish was taken off the bill as a result which was a nice gesture but still the slow service did spoil the experience somewhat"
Near Marble Arch, a small but bright tapas bar/restaurant which draws its inspiration from San Sebastian, and whose small dishes generally impressed on our early-days visit.
We've never been too much troubled by 'authenticity'. That pan-fried fish you washed down with a bottle of local plonk in some idyllic Aegean port is never going to taste the same as the 'same' meal consumed in, say, a Bermondsey back street bistro. It's not even anything to do with the availability or freshness of the fish: clever people have proved that even the crockery you eat off affects your perception of taste, so transform the whole environment and you can safely assume that taste totally transforms too.
This musing is inspired by a visit to a new restaurant in 'Portman Village' (homage to 'Marylebone Village', presumably), near Marble Arch. It's called Donostia, which is we all know is another name for San Sebastian. So it's all about like-being-in-San-Sebastian? Right?
Well, as it happens, we went there once. Rained a lot. And as much as we can recall, the eating places we stumbled into were all very informal, and to that extent didn't have a great deal in common with the bright but fairly conventionally laid out bar/restaurant-style operation we encountered in W1. But perhaps that's because we were tourists in San Sebastian. And so in a particular part of town, and with a susceptibility for the easy and obvious. Does our weekend's experience a few years ago define 'authentic' today? Could it? Who's to say?
Would a 'real' San Sebastian operation offer, say, a very good tarte au citron, very much Ã la franÃ§aise, as we enjoyed in Portman Village. We suspect not. But it did nothing to spoil a meal in which the small savoury dishes had almost all been very tasty. Txipirones certainly sounds authentic enough, and this dish of spicy, crispy squid was particularly good. We also enjoyed Usoa - pigeon with peas and pancetta. Pigeon is an acquired taste, and not one that always works for us, but here it was something of triumph (if not for a guest, who found it 'a bit too gamey').
So, authentic or not, this is an establishment we much enjoyed visiting. At the end we found ourself talking to one of the proprietors, who was pretty obviously English. So, we asked about the others. We're a group of friends who just got swept away by a visit to San Sebastian, she said. So the others aren't from San Sebastian, or even from Barcelona? Er, no. They're from Poland, you know'
10 Seymour Pl, London, W1H 7ND
lunch 12.30 pm - 3 pm, dinner 6 pm - 11 pm, Sun 9 pm
Last orders: 11 pm