29 July 2014

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Something Spanish: London's best tapas restaurants


Camino.jpgIn the mood for a taste of España? Treat your tastebuds to the best tapas in London with our list of the top 15 Spanish restaurants not to be missed.

Aqua Nueva, Soho

With its bling-bling decor and elegant dishes, this bar ups the ante when it comes to the tapas experience. The kitchen combines the modern and traditional to good effect: try laçon con grelos (pork leg with turnip tops) for a classic taste of Galicia, or order the endive wrapped in Iberian pork with pomegranate dressing for something more contemporary.

Barcelona y Tapas, various locations

With its Gaudí-inspired mosaic tiling, high-quality (if retro) wines, and informal style, this restaurant serves unpretentious but flavourful food that leans towards Valencia. Try the typical east-coast starter of bread with tomato, followed by fideuá (a paella made with noodles), or morsels of pork marinated in paprika, chilli and red wine.

Barrafina, Soho

This tiny, polished enterprise in the heart of Soho has long been the benchmark for what good tapas are supposed to taste like. It’s run by the Hart brothers (who also own Fino and Quo Vadis) and offers runny-centred Spanish omelettes as well as delicious plates of grilled razor clams, Spanish ham and morcilla. No reservations.

Boqueria - DSC_0481.jpgBoquería, Brixton (pictured, left)

Located on Acre Lane, Boquería puts a modern twist on traditional Spain, in terms of both decor and dishes. The well-rounded menu offers something for everyone: fish lovers should try the buñuelos de bacalao (salt-cod fritters) or the paella with juicy shrimp, squid, clams and mussels.

Cambio de Tercio, Kensington

With its brightly painted walls, clients including Spain’s tennis hero Rafael Nadal and a modern menu offering dishes some of our readers rate as ‘the best Spanish food in London’, expect this tapas experience to be a full-throttle one. Creative plates such as gazpacho with cherry ice cream and lobster, and Manchego lollipops, generally thrill.

Camino, various locations (pictured, top right)

Fun and feisty, this bar and restaurant is packed in the evenings with the young, post-work crowd. It serves an extensive range of tapas that cover all parts of Spain, from favourites such as croquetas and pimientos de Padrón, to Canary-Islands staple papas arrugadas (salted potatoes served with a spicy sauce) and pulpo a la gallega (octopus with capers and paprika).

Copita, Soho

Sticking to the Spanish practice of eating standing up or at the counter, Copita is a tapas bar that keeps things casual. Expect the freshest ingredients of the season on the regularly changing menu, as well as house favourites such as the ajo blanco (an outrageously creamy chilled garlic soup). Be sure to save room for a border-crossing Portuguese custard tart for dessert. 

Dehesa, Soho

Named after the Andalusian woodland area that’s home to the black-footed ibérico pigs who give the world pata-negra ham, this Spanish-Italian hybrid serves thoughtful small plates that draw their inspiration from both cuisines. Try braised ibérico pig cheeks with morcilla, cauliflower purée and prunes in Pedro Ximénez, or Trevise-and-caramelised-pear salad with oregano and chestnuts.

Donostia 2012 - donostia 1 - Donostia_2012_-_donostia_1.jpgDonostia, Marylebone (pictured, left)

Chirpy, confident Donostia takes the Basque country as inspiration. The light, bright dining room is a white, open space decorated with driftwood and tinges of blue. Sit up at the bar or commandeer one of the handful of tables for a picoteo of olives followed by a pintxo of ham croquetas, then try the pluma (pork shoulder) with Romesco sauce - all washed down with slightly sparkling Basque wine, txakoli.

José, Bermondsey

Take the edge off your hunger by making a pit stop at Jose Pizarro's diminutive tapas-and-sherry bar. Classic Spanish ingredients, fantastic flavours and cracking value mean that you won't be the only one looking for a light bite - the place is always packed. Take your pick from salted Marcona almonds, flavoursome meatballs or roasted baby chicken with Romesco sauce. No bookings.

Morito, Farringdon

Standing proudly beside its older sibling Moro, Sam and Sam Clark’s tapas venture offers the same style of dishes from Spain’s Moorish-influenced south, with the addition of typical Middle-Eastern delicacies. Crunchy croquetas have a luxurious, smooth filling; spiced lamb cutlets are juicy and vibrant; while ice-cold sherries add another dimension to the delicious menu. No reservations.

Opera Tavern, Covent Garden

The third venue by the team behind Salt Yard and Dehesa, located in an old Covent Garden pub, has proved a winner with critics and punters. They rave about the mini foie-gras-and-pork burger, the expertly sourced hams, and larger dishes such as the presa (a tender cut of pork between the shoulder and the loin) with shallot jus.

Pix, Soho and Covent Garden

The pintxos here are offered in traditional Basque style: diners help themselves to the skewered tapas laid out along the bar, then settle up by counting the skewers they’ve accumulated at the end of their meal. Pintxos at Pix range from classic to contemporary mouthfuls, with most priced at a greed-inducing £2-3.

Pizarro_2012_-_The_restaurant_at_Pizarro.jpgPizarro, Bermondsey (pictured, right)

Another venture by José Pizarro, and located just down the road from José, this second site is a larger, sit-down affair offering tempting small plates ranging from white-bean and clam stew to beef cheeks with pumpkin purée, or vanilla cheesecake with raspberries. The by-the-glass cava menu is also well worth a perusal. No bookings.

Tapas Brindisa, Borough

One of the standout eateries at popular foodie destination Borough Market, Tapas Brindisa is a lively, clattery, informal affair. Snacks include artisan cheese and hand-carved hams, while larger dishes include patatas bravas, Padrón peppers, and pork belly with quince sauce. Check out the latest version of this burgeoning chain, Tramontana Brindisa, in the City; other branches can be found in Soho and South Kensington.

This feature was updated in January 2013.

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