The best Spanish restaurants outside London

Arbequina, Oxford

A “fantastic new find on the Cowley Road” from Rufus Thurston, of hit local Oli’s Thai; and Ben Whyles of east Oxford staple Door 74. The “fresh, minimalist” setting (a conversion of an old chemist) is an appealing backdrop to “yummy and authentic” tapas from a short, typed list showcasing “first-class ingredients”.

 

Baratxuri, Ramsbottom

Whether you opt for a “kilo hunk of old Galician cow” (“much cheaper than Hawksmoor and super quality”), the marvellous mariscada (seafood platter), or just churros and hot chocolate (not to mention “top-notch” wines at “minimal markups”) all is bloomin’ fantastic at this “beautiful” tiled spin-off to elder sibling Levanter, just round the corner. And it’s just “so relaxed: you eat this pintxo. You have a drink. Then another pintxo. Then try something off the cooked-to-order menu. Have another drink,” and before long “you are pleasantly replete” and “have not really spent that much”. NB “Two small tables in the window; the rest is bar stools or standing”.

 

Paco Tapas, Bristol

“The best tapas ever (especially having watched them make them by sitting at the bar) with superb flavours followed by desserts to die for”has made an instant smash hit of the Sanchez-Iglesias family’s Spanish tapas and sherry bar, where “the ambience makes the best even better!”

 

El Gato Negro, Manchester

“The hype is justified!” – This “dazzling addition to the Manchester restaurant scene” (which moved into town last year) is THE destination in the city-centre right now (and Manc’s most commented-on venue in this year’s survey). A three-floor operation incorporating bar and rooftop level, it serves Simon Shaw’s “creative small plates, in Spanish style and with Moorish influences” and despite the odd quibble that “it’s not as good as the smaller, tighter set-up it was in Ripponden” most reporters feel its tapas is “some of the best ever”. All this popularity also brings a few negatives though – at peak times service can become “disorganised”, you run the gauntlet of “inhospitable door nazis”, and “some diners have a touch of the Harry Enfields about them: ‘I am considerably richer than yow’!”

 

Iberico, Nottingham

“Still miles ahead of competitors far and wide” – this “sophisticated” bar in a historic cellar on the Lace Market delivers a formidable package of “amazing tapas”, “great sherry” and Iberian wines. “The quality wouldn’t be out of place in central London”.

 

Bravas, Bristol

“Somehow they have managed to create a terrific atmosphere in an ordinary shopfront” at this “small, lively tapas bar” (and former pop-up) on Cotham Hill; on the food front, they “don’t content themselves with blind imitation”, resulting in “rustic” and “interesting” dishes, best chased with one of their “amazing gins”.

 

Bar 44, Cardiff & Penarth

“A gem among the soulless, huge chain restaurants in the centre of Cardiff!” This latest two-year-old outlet of a small indie group (with branches in Cowbridge and Penarth) serves “very good Spanish tapas (though the helpings are really like the larger ‘raciones’)” and feels like “somewhere with personality”.

 

 

Find fabulous wines to pair with your tapas with the IWSC’s Top 10 list of Spanish wines here.

And check out London’s Top 10 Spanish restaurants here.

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