Nieves Barragán Mohacho was the breakout star of Barrafina, winning a Michelin star for the group’s original outpost and, by devising different menus for each successive branch, helping to transform Londoners’ attitude to Spanish food. She’s now taken that development even further with her first solo restaurant, Sabor, which while looking like a tapas bar – a long, L-shaped eating counter surrounds an open kitchen decorated with colourful Andalusian tiles – serves the sort of Spanish-accented small plates you won’t find anywhere else in the UK.
Some of them involve tweaking the familiar. Oil-soaked pan con tomate is topped with a vivid ruffle of cured meat, piquillo croquetas are dusted with a fine shaving of Manchego cheese, while garlic prawns have a wobbly, barely cooked texture and arrive atop a squelch of saline-heavy seaweed.
But there is much that tastes completely new, including a superbly cooked piece of presa Ibérica served with a mojo verde so fragrant with coriander it tastes almost Indian. The biggest surprise is that the best dish is left until the very end: bombas de chocolas, a trio of doughnuts dolloped with a sticky mess of chocolate and coffee sauces so sinfully rich they taste like the most grown-up profiteroles imaginable.
Not all of it is so accomplished – the wild mushroom croquetas taste like deep-fried soup – and there will doubtless be diners who long for the straightforward comfort of chorizo and calamares. But for most visitors, “this place ROCKS: perfect decor, fun ambience, sublime food and great wine list.” Likewise, we applaud Mohacho and her front-of-house partner José Etura for not simply Xeroxing the Barrafina formula.
If you don’t want to queue for a seat, come early in the week for lunch, or book the upstairs Asador, specialising in lamb cutlets and suckling pig cooked in an open kitchen and served at communal tables.