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Have you eaten at Bilbao Berria?

Harden's says...

Bilbao Berria

Near Trafalgar Square, a stylish and welcoming offshoot of a Barcelona tapas bar/restaurant - particularly handy in a part of Theatreland where many establishments are still grimly impersonal.

Anyone going to the theatre in the vicinity of the Haymarket still has a pretty unappealing lot of restaurants to contend with, so all hail to this recent import from Barcelona (not, confusingly, Bilbao), brought to us by former MasterChef champ Ash Mair.

There is an immediate air of welcome as you enter the darkly-decorated contemporary-style ground floor bar, open all day from 8am, where illuminated glass cabinets full of pintxos (Basque tapas) set an immediately promising note. We, however, headed on down to the basement dining room - a pleasant sort of place to retreat from the West End mêlée.

As you often find in Spain, a lot of the dishes on the main menu could equally well be described as tapas, or at least as 'small plates', and that is certainly the case here, so you can lunch (or dine pre-theatre) at relatively modest cost, on such known-and-usual treats as croquettas and octopus with mash and smoked paprika - the former dish was very good, the latter exceptional.

You could equally well push the boat out, however, and enjoy Josper-grilled lobster with lobster rice. (We sadly didn't.) Bread was rather ho-hum (so quite authentic), and the flan (crème caramel) perhaps had the slightest hint of blandness.

Overall, however, a visit here is an all-round-pleasant experience in a way we suspect has few peers in the immediate vicinity. If there is a particular reason to visit, it would have to be the considerable charm of the largely Spanish staff.

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2 Regent St, London, SW1Y 4LR
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Last orders: Mon-Wed 10.30 pm, Thu-Sat 11 pm

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