Part of the same Spanish-themed group as Salt Yard and Opera Tavern, Dehesa recently re-opened with a new look which evokes the sort of contemporary tapas bar you might find in Barcelona. There’s exposed brickwork and parquet floors, seating on high stools and at bottle-green booths hugging the walls, and an informal, upbeat (and very noisy) atmosphere that feels more bar than restaurant.
We were very impressed by everything we ate; this was some of the best-quality tapas we’d encountered in a long time, up there with some of the more famous names on London’s Spanish dining scene.
Honey-slicked batter clings to deep-fried courgette flowers which spurt out Monte Enebro goat’s cheese. Ham and Manchego croquetas are filled with soothing, cheesy béchamel. Tortilla is authentically chunky, more potato than egg. Fleshy prawns sit in a puddle of hot chilli oil; soak up what’s left with chargrilled flatbread drenched in garlic butter and flecked with fresh rosemary leaves.
It’s not all so classic though. Larger dishes include presa iberica with roasted Roscoff onion and chicken jus, or a pretty plate of octopus, cooked to melting softness, blobbed with buttercup-yellow saffron alioli and scattered with watercress. The creative kitchen, meanwhile, also sends out the likes of sprouting broccoli with Parmesan emulsion and toasted hazelnuts, and poached chorizo picante with braised black beans and tenderstem broccoli, if you find a menu of classic tapas a tad predictable.
Puddings might not seem like the most appealing option after such an onslaught of savoury flavours but we’d urge you to save space for the muscovado panna cotta, which tastes like the most upmarket Angel Delight imaginable, the thick cream loaded with crunchy pieces of honeycomb.
To drink, the Spanish/Italian wine list has a scattering of bottles under £30 but lots of choice under £40, though Cava and balloon-glass G&Ts are the things to drink here, not least in summer when the wraparound terrace might almost convince you’re in a side street off La Rambla.