“I’d travel here from Spain for the pluma Iberica!”– José Pizarro’s original Bermondsey tapas bar “somehow has the edge over the competition”serving some of “the best tapas you will find”… “if you can get in (it’s always heaving)”.
“The wait can sometimes be twice the time spent at the counter”, but no-one seems to mind at the Hart Bros kick-ass small group of Barcelona-inspired tapas haunts in Soho (now relocated to the ground floor of Quo Vadis) and Covent Garden. “The buzz is amazing” and, having nabbed a perch (fewer than 30 in each branch), everyone “loves the open kitchen and watching the keen staff at work”, while the dishes themselves are genius – “fresh seafood is amongst the highlights” but “even something as simple as tomato bruschetta is transformed here”. (So far, the February 2017 departure of founding group exec head chef, Nieves Barragán Mohacho, to found Sabor, has had zero effect on ratings – the new incumbent is Angel Zapata Martin.)
“I’ve been going for 20 years but it still surprises me” – Samuel and Samantha Clark’s epic Exmouth Market “institution” remains “a regular haunt” for hordes of reporters thanks to its “sunshine-filled”neo-Spanish and north African dishes, even if “the poor acoustics of this former supermarket make it hard to maintain a conversation when it’s busy”. By and large it “goes from strength to strength” – if ratings aren’t quite as stratospheric as once they were maybe it’s just “no longer so different from the competition as to be as remarkable as it was”.
“Exceptional pintxos and tapas” have earned a cult following for this “buzzy” Basque outfit near Marble Arch, sibling to nearby Lurra. “One of the better Spanish restaurants in the capital” – “sit at the bar around the open kitchen to watch the chefs at work” (or there are a couple of tables in the small rear space). “The wine list is also extensive and intriguing”.
“Moro’s little sister two doors down from Moro itself” nowadays also has a Hackney outpost, near Columbia Road Flower Market, and although the newer branch is “more roomy” and “less frenetic than the original”, “pressure on tables is fierce” at both of these “crowded, small eateries”. That said, they “run like clockwork” on the whole, and service is “incredibly helpful and knowledgeable”. The draw? – “scrumptious” Spanish/North African tapas with “imaginative modern twists” at prices that are “terrific value”.
“A perfect local” that “never fails to deliver” – this “charming oasis on the Archway Road” is a “terrific partnership between the chef and the head waiter” and “whizzes out” an “inventive” set menu of Spanish and North African tapas: “there’s no choice, but none is needed as everything is fresh, interesting and delicious”.
“Fresh, light tapas dishes, with influences from Asia” provide a “different take on the usual fare”at these “stylish”, “buzzy and fun” neighbourhood places, in Battersea and on the Clapham/Brixton border; “charming service” too.
“Outstanding and inventive, meat-based tapas” – “served with attitude” (in a good way) – make it well worth seeking out this “hard-to-find” two-year-old “squashed under a rail viaduct” at Borough Market. Set up by alumni of nearby Brindisa, whose “passion shines through”, it is “chaotic and busy” – but “somehow it works”.
“It was like having a magician as a waiter”, say fans of the Arzac family’s Belgravia outpost, extolling “course after course of treats, from mouthfuls to more substantial dishes, all exploring new tastes”. The room itself can seem “as dull as ditchwater” however, and critics are disappointed by food they find “more startling to the eye than agreeable to the palette”.
“A real addition to the desert of Hampstead!” This no-reservations, “very buzzy” (“it can get very full”) new tapas bar – a townhouse cellar in a super-cute street – breathes a bit of much-needed life into NW3’s dining options, serving “typical Spanish staples (boquerones, patatas fritas, chorizo) alongside enticing and original specials on the board”. “Service is borne of a genuine enthusiasm for the place and its customers.”
Spanish newcomers that haven’t appeared in our survey yet, but are definitely worth a visit…
Nieves Barragán Mohacho and José Etura, who met working at Barrafina (where the former was the executive head chef), have unsurprisingly chosen a Spanish style for their autumn newcomer, which – with additional bar and asador (wood-fired oven), will open in Heddon Street. The ground-floor will feature a fresh seafood counter and an open kitchen producing regional dishes from across Spain, while the upstairs restaurant will focus on the cuisine of Galicia and Castile.
The folks behind Clapham’s WC Wine & Charcuterie and Joe Public Pizza relaunch Powder Keg Diplomacy as Powderkeg in Battersea with a new Spanish and Italian-influenced menu from former Opera Tavern chef Ben Mulock.
Named for Barcelona’s famous restaurant strip, this Soho tapas spot from Victor Garvey opened in October 2017, delivering a Catalan menu in a larger (60 cover) space than his openings to date.
Just before the launch of Rambla Victor Garvey found time to open this cosy, closely packed, small (26 seats) wine, cheese, and tapas bar almost next door to the now closed Encant (with his dad!) in July 2017; early press reviews are very upbeat.