Full of flavour and featuring some of the most exciting ingredients, Spanish cuisine is much-loved. So why not try out one of the best Spanish restaurants in London, with our informative list. Every one of the restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of the best Spanish restaurants in London have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.
‘Tapas & paella’ in the strapline for this branch of the Cambio de Tercio group, and it remains the venue’s real selling point. On summer evenings, gaggles of happy punters spill out of the concertina doors onto the pavement, while bright decor, Catalan charm and sunny Iberian service keeps things cheery on the rainiest of days. Among the sharing plates, you can't go wrong with traditional albondigas (meatballs), Galician-style octopus or Padrón peppers, but also note the aubergine chips with rosemary honey and some exceptional jamón ibérico. While the standard tapas deliver on quality, the kitchen also ups the ante by offering, say, mini Wagyu burgers or grilled Iberian pork with chorizo purée and figs. Gourmet paellas (six versions) are as popular as ever, and an excellent sherry list caps off a first-rate offering.
Like its big brother Salt Yard, light-footed Dehesa flits between Spain and Italy, embracing the best of both worlds. The selection of “dreamy little small plates” allows for a magpie approach, and diners can zigzag their way across the Med, taking in tortillas and pork rillions (“naughty as hell”), then maybe tender ricotta and spinach malfatti, before alighting on zesty ‘nduja croquetas with guindilla alioli. Charcuterie pits Spain’s acorn-fed finest against Italy’s famous Parma, while desserts feature deep-fried milk with cinnamon (“a revelation”). The regional wine list makes inspired reading, but don’t miss the “crazy Salvador Dali brandy in a melting bottle” urges one fan. Dehesa’s corner site is pretty – and well-positioned near Liberty’s;
it also wins friends by taking bookings.
This is the smarter of José Pizarro’s two Bermondsey eateries, and the only proper sit-down option – although we recommend perching at the kitchen counter and enjoying some “great theatre” if you can. This is a good-looking place, contemporary without being achingly fashionable, and it attracts a local crowd to match. The ingredients are always top quality and handled with expertise by the kitchen team: meltingly soft chicken livers on sourdough are “a must-try”; grilled baby gem lettuce is paired with blue cheese, piquillo peppers and caramelised walnuts; Cornish hake might be grilled on the plancha and served with sautéed potatoes. To finish, expect inventive desserts ranging from a strawberry soup with basil and lime granita to cream-cheese ice cream with blackcurrant and chamomile syrup. The wine list is among London’s best for good Spanish producers and emerging regions. There’s a newer branch in the City, but fans tend to favour this “truly remarkable” original.
If Ametsa’s dining room looks a little clinical with its test tubes of spices undulating in the ceiling, that’s no coincidence – there’s a meticulous, almost scientific approach to gastronomy here. But it’s also worth taking notice of the poppies etched on the mirrors because the cooking has a boundary-pushing, dreamlike quality, intended to astound more than just the taste buds. The menu describes its dishes in a florid style – ‘scallops leaving home’, ‘tuna with cinnamon on fire’ and ‘sea bass with celery illusion’ – and they all deliver “incredible artistry” and Michelin-starred “wows” galore. A dessert of orange toast with spinach has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity to round off the meal. “Fantastically knowledgeable staff” get their share of plaudits, while the sommelier is “informative and spot-on” when it comes to the Spanish-biased wine list. “Pure theatre”.
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction
‘Orange is the New Black’, as they say on TV, which makes the chosen colour for the dinky offshoot of big-hitting Moro totally on-trend. Morito is a tiny spot and it fills up fast (bookings are only taken at lunchtime), but we guarantee you’ll love this immensely stylish little joint. Once you’re in, get stuck into small plates with a decidedly rustic Spanish flavour: salt cod croquetas, Padrón peppers, jamón Ibérico, patatas bravas and other tapas classics are all here, but keep an eye out for the specials too – perhaps pork belly with mojo verde or deep-fried rabbit shoulder flavoured with rose harissa. The plancha turns out lamb chops spiced up with cumin and paprika, while desserts might include a divine chocolate and olive oil mousse. The enticing all-Iberian wine list features some splendid sherries and watch out for Morito’s annual ‘seafood and sherry’ festival.
Morito Exmouth Market
It may be softened by candelabra and fresh flowers, but the robust, artfully faded brick-and-iron marina setting is unlikely to put anyone in mind of Spanish sunshine, almonds and piquillo peppers. Nevertheless, Bravas Tapas lives up to its name, even though it beats to a vaguely avant-garde drum. Artisan snacks are what you’d expect (pickles, anchovies, Ibérico ham), but the interest builds as the kitchen rolls out its specialities – perhaps foie gras ‘crema catalana’ with cherries and Bellota ham, Malaguena salad with pineapple, fennel and sherry or blue cheese croquetas with pickled carrot salpicón. BT’s seafood speaks of wider, cleaner waters than the Thames, but dishes such as grilled octopus with toasted garlic and olive oil feel just right. Whipped-to-order alioli has been a signature since day one, as have the tongs with which you’re expected to pick everything up – not recommended with the caramelised brioche pudding and passion fruit sorbet.
EC3 may be all suits and briefcases, but this branch of Barcelona Tapas is a far cry from minimalist, corporate style. Summoning up the spirit of Las Ramblas, the space is decked out with gaudy mosaics and colourful tiles, while a flamenco soundtrack strums away in the background. The long tapas menu covers all bases, moving from charcuterie and cheeses via ‘los classicos’ small plates and the odd modern riff to more substantial items for sharing. Albondigas (meatballs), patatas bravas and crispy deep-fried baby squid with salsa romesco keep it familiar, while generous helpings of morcilla de Burgos with roasted peppers, skewers of spice-infused lamb or pans of paella are perfect for large groups. A fistful of desserts includes the usual crema catalana and Santiago tart, while the vast drinks list encompasses sangria, Spanish-style G&Ts and regional wines. Takeaways and local deliveries too.
Barcelona Tapas Bar y Restaurante - Middlesex Street
Part of a wave of traditionally breezy Spanish eateries that turned the West End into a rather delicious barrio, Copita is as accomplished and popular as ever. The name translates as ‘little glass’, but with numerous sherries and affordable Spanish wines to sample, the ethos here is ‘little and often’. Such an offering cultivates a congenial mood as punters perch on wooden stools amid tile-clad walls and glowing candles. A daily changing list of tapas might include anything from crisp, gooey mushroom croquetas or pizza-style coca bread layered with soft roasted peppers and duck egg to scallops dolloped with cauliflower purée and chorizo. In similarly trendy vein, you might also find bao buns, playfully stuffed with silky Ibérico ham and spiced pepper sauce. To finish, nibble on a caramelised custard tart – paired with a copita of light Moscatel, naturally. Service is smiley and prices are fair, making this a welcome pit stop.
London’s three branches of “buzzing” Barrafina can hold their own against Spain’s finest, and Barrafina Adelaide Street, on a corner site in theatreland, is no exception. Each has its own personality and style, although the no-bookings policy, marble and glass interiors, long bar and attentive, enthusiastic staff are common to all three. As ever, dishes range from the dainty (little shells of zingy, sweet scallop ceviche) to the gutsy (gorgeous, creamy milk-fed-lamb’s brains breadcrumbed and served with a punchy olive and tomato sauce) – not forgetting the Harts’ lauded tortilla laced with spicy morcilla and piquillo pepper. “There’s always something new and wonderful to try”, and two of our favourites are hits from the daily specials board – grilled John Dory lathered in a silky olive oil, garlic and parsley sauce, and Josper-grilled baby vegetables atop romesco sauce. To drink, sniff out the owners’ hand-picked sherries, or pick something suitable from the carefully sourced Spanish wine list. If you’re used to Spanish pinxtos prices, you’re in for a shock – but then again, a trip to Barrafina Adelaide Street is cheaper than a flight to Valencia.
Barrafina Adelaide Street
This “marvellous” Basque kitchen has always served the food and drink of San Sebastián and its environs against a backdrop of purest white, with touches of grained wood and marble – although it’s now reaping the benefit of a 2016 refurb. The food doesn’t need much flattery, even if the act of pouring natural Basque cider from great heights does add a certain ceremony to the experience. Excellent charcuterie dominates the selection of cold plates, while pintxos could be foie gras with walnuts and PX vinegar, jamón croquetas or tempura prawns with ham and mango. Bigger tapas dishes give meat and fish a starring role, as in Ibérico pork shoulder with romesco sauce, crispy-fried cod cheeks with squid-ink aïoli or marinated quail with spinach, pancetta and truffle oil. There are classic extras including blistered Padrón peppers and masterfully made tortilla too. Donostia’s owners started out in the wine import trade, and there’s quality in every glass.
It might be modelled on Barcelona’s legendary tapas bar Cal Pep, but well-travelled readers reckon Barrafina Dean Street surpasses the original. The Barrafina chain is a homage to the traditional tapas bar, refracted through a very London vibe – a feeling enhanced by this handsome space (all steel, marble and mirrors) which takes up most of the ground floor of Quo Vadis. Classic croquetas, garlic prawns and grilled sardines are done to tapas perfection, deep-fried courgette flowers combine fragility with a hot spurt of grassy goats’ cheese, octopus is rendered meltingly soft and sticky from the hotplate, and Barrafina’s made-to-order tortillas, bound with barely set egg yolk, are the finest you’ll eat anywhere. To drink, an excellent choice of all-Spanish wines includes own-label Manzanilla and plenty by the glass. However, serving such “delicious and exciting” Michelin-starred food does have its downside: you need to turn up at Barrafina Dean Street before 6pm to guarantee a place at the counter, and even then you could face an hour’s wait – although it’s no hardship with a glass of rosé cava in one hand and a plate of ham croquetas in the other.
Barrafina Dean Street
While the bar for London tapas has been mightily raised in recent years, it’s done nothing to dent the popularity of old-time stalwart Cigala. Wines built for long lingering lunches are a big reason for its success, with bags of choice on the Spanish-led list and the sort of kindly mark-ups that are never likely to go out of fashion. Gleaming linen and cream walls lighten up the corner site, while Jake Hodges’ kitchen dishes up reliable renditions of grilled sardines in garlic, parsley and lemon, Basque-style baked crab, or squid blasted furiously on the plancha with mojo verde and guindilla peppers. Regional hams and olives, paellas for two and a compact selection of mains (perhaps hake with prawns and cockles in green sauce) complete the menu, although there’s no sign of the titular langoustine. Functional service gets the food delivered, but you’ll be glad of straight-talking wine notes.
José Pizarro began his London career working for Spanish food importer Brindisa before launching his Bermondsey flagship Pizarro, then this little tapas bar down the road. So it’s no surprise that London’s best-known Spanish chef also knows his produce: the hams, cheeses and everything else here are exemplary. There isn’t a great deal of space and it’s standing room only much of the time, but that doesn't stop the tiniest of preparation areas (‘kitchen’ may be too grand a word) from turning out “amazing” croquetas, grills and assemblies. Beyond the patatas bravas, tortilla and Padrón peppers, we’re very partial to the cured tuna with almonds, baby chicken with potatoes and romesco sauce, chorizo al vino and figs with sheep’s cheese and honey dressing. A few little plates and a glass of wine or sherry is sufficient to set most people off in a good mood for the rest of the evening. It’s perennially packed, but the accommodating staff are as expert at dealing with crowds in confined spaces as Spanish bus conductors.
The word “love” crops up repeatedly in Moro’s plaudits – a sure sign that it’s still held in high regard after rocking on for two decades. From day one, Sam and Samantha Clark’s ground-breaking eatery made an impact with its zinc-topped bar, pavement tables, wood-fired oven and compelling Spanish/North African cuisine. The whole shebang still thrills, although nothing can trump the food: heady spicing and subtly matched flavours are at the heart of things, from a lamb and saffron broth with wee dumplings, or a rustic salad of warm white beans and celery topped with bottarga, to luscious chocolate and apricot tart. In between, the wood-fired oven makes easy work of sesame chicken (served with couscous), while the charcoal grill offers up lamb with fava bean and bitter leaf purée. Alternatively, pick some small plates from the tapas bar menu – perhaps fried spiced chickpeas or anchovies on toast. The wine list shows the same geographical interests as the menu, and the sherry line-up warrants proper consideration. “Fabulous, I just love this place”, raves one fan.
It’s easy to see why Salt Yard’s genuinely shareable, sensibly paced small plates are loved by Londoners, because its “consistently great food” is leagues ahead of your average tapas. In fact, its top dishes wouldn’t be out of place in a far more formal setting than this bar-like amalgam of bare wood, brown banquettes and brass lampshades. Just consider gooey and crisp smoked eel croquetas on precise dabs of vivid pink beetroot purée, hake fillet and baby artichoke with foaming ajo blanco or rosy slices of Ibérico presa and calcot-style grilled onions with a ruby romesco sauce like pure silk.
Cream stools are comfy, but it’s the sharp cooking, keen pricing and ever-changing menu that keep in-the-know regulars perpetually hooked. “Lovely staff” buy into the concept and advise with confidence; we certainly appreciated their suggestion of a classy chocolate mousse with mini-churros and cherries for dessert. The cracking Mediterranean-leaning wine list is strong on by-the-glass options.
“Cool but not too expensive”, this casual spot deals in Spanish and Italian food with a “smoky twist”. The two-tiered space is suitably clad in wood, with assorted seating upstairs, more intimate corners and a large bar in the basement. A succinct small-plates menu is great for groups, from Ibérico pork fat chips or smoked burrata with zingy heritage tomatoes to morsels of “wonderfully rich and juicy” hot-smoked Gloucester pork belly served with smoked apple and cider – all given the treatment over single-species charcoal from Kent.
The menu is also peppered with trendy extras such as whipped jamón butter, brown crab alioli and chorizo ketchup, while a range of Spanish lagers and intriguing cocktails (acorn liqueur, anyone?) refresh the palate after all that smoke. Ember Yard delivers the goods, whether you’re after a beer and some buttery barbecued flatbread or a full-on celebration; meanwhile, “enthusiastic staff” add the final gloss to this “smoking” venue.
Selling itself as a ‘gastronomic and cultural space’ with a Spanish accent, Trangallán is housed in a disused Stoke Newington social club that has been filled with furniture from auction rooms, markets and fairs. Everything here is also for sale, if you fancy putting in an offer for some cutlery or the chairs you’re sitting on. The ground floor is a tapas hangout dealing in “seasonal Spanish food”, so graze your way through charcuterie, cheeses, smoked anchovies and more fashionable delights such as tuna tartare with ajo blanco, green and white asparagus with egg yolk and crispy jamón or Iberian ‘presa’ (pork shoulder) with chimichurri and ‘wrinkled’ potatoes. We’re also fans of the gutsy carrilleras (a stew of pig’s cheeks) with savoy cabbage. The Spanish-led drinks list features some interesting ‘natural’ wines and exclusive, ‘limited edition’ sherries. Meanwhile, Tranga’s dinky basement is given over to regular film screenings, cabaret, flamenco, sherry tastings and other events. “Fantastic, unique…and so very close!” cheers one Stokey local.
Those looking for something less formal than Cambio de Tercio head over to this casual ‘tapas & bar’ sibling in droves. The food may be rather more traditional than its bullish neighbour across the road, with the emphasis on staples such as exclusive jamón de bellota (£22 a plate), tortilla and chorizo in cider – although the kitchen also knocks out a few surprise packages in the form of tuna tartare with avocado mayonnaise, quails marinated in sherry vinegar, ‘new-style’ patatas bravas and Iberian spare ribs with ‘mojo canario’. Also look for the ‘solomillo de buey’ (fillet of beef ‘carpaccio-tataki’) and the lamb casserole with roasted almonds. The Cambio group has a reputation for sherry, and Tendido’s selection is guaranteed to please aficionados and new converts alike. The whole package regularly wins plaudits, and the place “looks in fine fettle”.
Sister site to the grown-up Cambio de Tercio next door, Capote y Toros is everything you’d expect from a younger sibling – louder and boozier, but with all the same quality in its DNA. Prepare for an Andalusian assault on the senses, courtesy of the pink and yellow colour scheme, the wall of framed bullfighting pictures and the swinging hams. This highly animated dining room becomes a flamenco-soundtracked chapel to ham and sherry as the evening gets going. Grab a table or hover under the wall-mounted barrel ends, and pick from a line-up of 125 sherries: from straw-coloured and salty manzanillas through crisp, boozy amontillados, to glasses of sweet Pedro Ximénez. In contrast to Cambio’s envelope-pushing cuisine, the menu here plays it straight. Expect classic tapas dishes such as Spanish omelette with chorizo; lamb shoulder casserole with oloroso; the speciality homemade cod sausage with Padrón peppers – and, of course, a mouth-watering choice of killer ibérico hams.
Capote y Toros
Refurbished in 2015, Aqua's upmarket Spanish eatery is predictably sleek and glamorous, although the food is sufficiently accomplished to hold its own. Low-lit black tables are arranged beneath an arched, copper-clad ceiling, while the menu of show-stopping tapas ranges from ultra-traditional pan con tomate and patatas bravas to glazed veal cheek with pickled mushrooms or poached cod fillet atop fennel purée. Respect for ingredients and presentation is evident throughout, from melting black-ink seafood croquetas presented in mussel shells to deep-pink raw tuna rolls, stuffed with a confit tomato and almonds, then studded with pomegranate (a riot of colour and texture). There are also larger plates of grilled octopus or perhaps Ibérico secreto pork, but our advice is to stick with the smaller, more adventurous tapas. Big bills come as standard, but the striking black-and-gold bar provides a more wallet-friendly alternative with its evening snack menu, array of cocktails and a terrace overlooking Regent Street.
It might be rolling into its third decade, but “Abel Lusa’s masterpiece gets better every year”, according to one of his many loyal customers. There’s nothing old-fashioned about this “incredibly authentic” and wildly underrated Brompton Road flagship of the sophisticated Cambio mini-chain – a venue whose fizzing energy is fuelled by a packed dining room, clued-up staff and a constantly evolving menu. Regulars rave about must-order classics, such as the hollowed-out ‘nuevas’ patatas bravas filled with spicy tomato and alioli, but there’s also an excellent-value tasting menu, featuring innovations such as a riff on gazpacho involving tomato ‘water’ cherry sorbet, cod brandade and cristal bread or spicy suckling pig meatballs with crunchy ear, poached skate and Colombian tamarillo. Just as exciting are the “very long” all-Spanish wine list and the treasure-trove of gins and sherries – thanks to sibling bars C. Tonic and Capote y Toros, where you can continue the fiesta with live flamenco.
Cambio de Tercio
Given its prime location right by Borough Market, it’s no wonder that tables at well-respected Tapas Brindisa are much in demand, though the roadside location isn’t to everyone’s liking. You can’t
book, so be prepared to join the scrum at the bar or – if the weather’s more Margate than Marbella – wrap up warm and sit outside. Brindisa is one of the UK’s best-known importers of Spanish
produce, so it’s no surprise that the cheeses, breads and charcuterie (including hand-carved serrano and ibérico de bellota hams) take centre stage. Half-a-dozen seasonal dishes using ingredients
from the market supplement tapas staples such as tortilla, freshly made croquetas, grilled chorizo and Padrón peppers, and the all-Spanish wine list is divided in to categories like ‘smooth and
soft’. Service can sometimes creak under the weight of Brindisa’s unerring popularity.
Tapas Brindisa Borough