El Pirata de Tapas W2
REVIEWS, April 7, 2009
Overall Value
out of 5
El Pirata de Tapas, 115 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 4UP

A comfortable but uninspired-looking Bayswater ‘tapas’ bar – it’s more a bistro, really – where the food is both more ambitious and less Spanish than you might expect.

Initial impressions of this new Notting Hill/Bayswater fringe tapas bar were not especially encouraging. The restaurant was empty when we arrived for lunch. Even so, service was not particularly on the ball. Some dishes were off, and those that were ‘on’ took quite a while to come.

But it got better. The service was pleasant enough, and the food was consistently rather good. The ingredients of simple dishes such as serrano ham on toast were impressive. A couple of scallops in a (perhaps slightly thin) velouté impressed too, as did deep-fried squid. The stand-out dish was one described as broken eggs, which is a sort of variation of chopped up bacon and eggs, elegantly presented in cylindrical style.

As you can tell from the dishes so far, this place has culinary ambitions rather more elevated – and less obviously Spanish – than your classic tapas bar. This was particularly evident at the dessert stage, and both the puddings we tried would have passed muster in non-Hispanic establishments of considerably greater grandeur.

The crema Catalana, for example, was far from being the usual variation on crème brûlée – served in a martini glass it claimed to come with ‘two textures’ (or, on older printings of the menu, three!). Yes, that does sound pretentious, but the result was actually rather delicious. A chocolate brownie was unusually light too, and all the better for showing no particular regard for ‘authenticity’ (either Spanish or American).

Ultimately, then, we left feeling that we’d had a bit of culinary adventure, with some surprise highlights, for around £20 a head (no booze), which is really not to be sneezed at. Despite our initial misgivings, we think this is a place which deserves to thrive.

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