Posts for the 'Tapas' Category


Donostia – Visit #2

Donostia, a tapas restaurant has its roots steeped in the Basque region of Spain. It is a stylish little number, with dark wood floors providing a contrast to the restaurant’s long, sleek and white interior. Donostia rings with a comfortable and contemporary casualness, and has a menu that lists many temptations. Located on trendy Seymour Place, it is neighbours with its sister restaurant Lurra, which I also visited last year.

I first went to Donostia in 2012 and at the time I liked the experience, but felt that in certain areas the cooking could have been better. Visit number two, and this time around I felt like I couldn’t get enough.

A mini wagyu beef burger (£5.60) was flavoursome and very enjoyable. It was a teeny tiny thing, so not ideal for sharing. But it was packed with flavour and nicely fatty and juicy. The toasted bun was soft and sweet, and the crunchy purple potato crisps went nicely with it.

Donostia - London Food Blog - Mini wagyu burger

Donostia – Mini wagyu burger

A dish of skrei cod with arroz negro (£14.20) was a touch salty, but otherwise this was a stunning plate of food. I love skrei cod from Norway. It’s a beautiful delicate piece of fish that flakes ever so nicely, and is abundant with flavour. At Donostia, they did the fish proud as it was perfectly cooked. The arroz negro was also very tasty and deep with the flavour of the squid. It was nicely done, but as mentioned, a touch salty.

Donostia - London Food Blog - Skrei cod

Donostia – Skrei cod

We really enjoyed the foie gras (£5.60) with walnuts and PX vinegar served on a slice of toasted sourdough. The foie gras was unctuous and rich, and it paired really well with the sweet, slight acidity of the vinegar. The use of walnuts was a wonderful addition as it provided some crunchiness.

Donostia - London Food Blog - Foie gras

Donostia – Foie gras

I had a disappointing dessert experience at Donostia’s sister restaurant Lurra last year and so I initially had reservations about trying the dessert at Donostia. But despite that, I found myself to be really impressed with the torrija with mint ice cream (£5.20). Similar to a bread pudding where the brioche bread had been soaked in milk, there was a lovely lightness to the torrija, not to mention a beautiful creamy taste.

And the mint ice cream? Well I am not a big fan of mint ice cream. On most occasions I find the mint too overpowering. But here, the use of the mint was very well judged and perfectly delicate. The pairing of the two proved to be, surprisingly, an excellent choice. This is a special Easter dessert and so unfortunately will probably no longer be available.

Donostia - London Food Blog - Torrija

Donostia – Torrija

We were well satisfied with the quantify of food that we ordered, but easily could have eaten more. Everything was really delicious and far more accomplished than I remembered from before. Donostia is a sleek, well-tuned affair with excellent food. The service was also very good.

SUMMARY INFORMATION:
Likes

1) All of the food was delicious, particularly the skrei cod (even if it was a little salty).
2) I adored the torrija – it had a beautiful texture and flavour.

Dislikes:
1) The skrei cod was a little salty.

Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: About £35 to £45 a head.

Website: http://www.donostia.co.uk/

Square Meal

Donostia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Jose Pizarro Broadgate

JOSE PIZARRO BROADGATE

Jose Pizarro Broadgate is Jose Pizarro’s third restaurant and follows in the footsteps of Jose and Pizarro. Both on Bermondsey Street, these two restaurants will go down as two of the best Spanish tapas places that I have ever eaten at in London. Jose Pizarro trained at the award–winning Meson de Doña Filo in Madrid before coming to London. He co-founded the Brindisa chain of restaurants before branching out on his own and opening his flagship restaurant Jose in 2011. Eating at Jose was an enlightening experience for me and it showed that traditional tapas recipes could be elevated to something exquisite with the best products, great skill and lots of love and care. Pizarro was also another great dining experience, although Jose will always win hands down on the coziness front.

Jose Pizarro Broadgate is a smart, corporate affair located in the newly developed Broadgate Circle at Liverpool Street. It’s a pretty slick set up and would suit the city lunchtime crowd well. We went on a Saturday night, enjoying the 50% off offer available through Opentable. We began our meal with some classics including the croquetas ‘caseras’ (£6.50) which were tasty and filled with a warming, creamy béchamel and little bits of Portobello mushroom. The filling was nicely done, but the crumb coating was very dark and a bit hard, and it was evident the croquetas were slightly burnt.

Jose Pizarro Broadgate - London Food Blog - Croquetas

Jose Pizarro Broadgate – Croquetas

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Barrica Tapas Bar

Barrica Tapas Bar, sister restaurant to Copitas Tapas Bar in Soho, is a quaint and cosy Spanish restaurant in Fitrovia with yellow walls and checkered tiles. Laid-back it might be, but both the food and wine list are adorned with serious stuff to offer the diner an experience that is genuinely authentic.

On the menu were the usual classics such as croquetas de jamón and tortilla (both of which had run out by the time we turned up), a range of hams, but to name a few. The wine list had been carefully compiled to showcase the diversity of Spain and included 16 sherries, ranging from sweet to dry, with each being available by the glass. Barrica means business, having invested in a bespoke, temperature-controlled cabinet which keeps red wine at its optimal drinking temperature, 16 degrees celsius. What’s more, everything is very reasonably priced. In 2016, Barrica was awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide which recognises quality at great value.

Sadly we didn’t have the opportunity to try the tortilla or the croquetas (my go-to favourites), but we were thoroughly thrilled by all the other savoury items that we tried, especially the grilled king prawns (£9) which were a delight. On the plate were three large prawns in the shell which were nicely cooked, succulent and juicy.

Barrica Tapas Bar - London Food Blog - Grilled prawns

Barrica Tapas Bar – Grilled prawns

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Tapas Revolution Shoreditch

TAPAS REVOLUTION SHOREDITCH

Chef Omar Allibhoy’s Tapas Revolution has locations in Shoreditch, Westfield, Bluewater and Grand Central, Birmingham. We recently visited the Shoreditch branch. The restaurant was about a third full, and had a pleasant buzz to it. Built around a central bar, the design of the restaurant embodies a modern Spanish wine and tapas bar.

Having eaten our fair share of Spanish food and visited a good handful of the acclaimed tapas restaurants in London, we have a good understanding of classic tapas. Staple dishes were therefore our primary focus as we feel a good tapas restaurant should be able to produce these to a high standard without breaking sweat.

Service was relaxed and friendly. We started with a glass of pleasant and affordable cava and a fresh and fruity Godello from Galicia. With these they brought us a small basket of bread sticks and sliced salchichon to snack on.

Tapas Revolution - London Food blog - Croquetas

Tapas Revolution – Croquetas

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Iberica – Great Chefs Great Causes Campaign

Ibérica are currently running a ‘Great Chefs Great Causes Campaign’ which features a collection of special signature tapas dishes created using recipes from the most celebrated Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American chefs, the majority of which were recently recognised as part of the 50 Best Restaurants in The World Awards. The tapas dishes are priced from £7 and will be rotated on a weekly basis throughout the London restaurants. The campaign ends on 23 August 2015, and the profits from the campaign will be shared equally amongst the chef’s chosen charities such as Unicef and Action Against Hunger.

I recently attended a preview tasting of this special collection of tapas dishes at the Great Portland Street branch of Ibérica. The evening began with a ‘Caipiritxa’ by Chef Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi in Spain (N°19 *). A beautiful green colour, this was a refreshing concoction made from capirinha and Spanish sparkling wine.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Caipiritxa by Azurmendi

Iberica – Caipiritxa by Azurmendi

Next was the razor clam with yellow pepper and black quinoa by Chef Virgilio Martinez of Central in Peru (N°4 *). This was my favourite dish of the evening. Beautiful soft razaor clams had been tempered with a delicate yellow pepper foam which combined beautifully with the clams. The spritely texture of the quinoa also added a lovely contrast and completed what was a mesmerising dish.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Razor clam by Central

Iberica – Razor clam by Central

Oysters with cucumber and lychee by Chef Daniel Redondo, of Mani in Brazil (N°41 *) was an interesting contrast in flavours and sensations. The lychee added sweetness to the savoury earthiness of the oyster, and the cucumber, served as a slice and as a jelly provided a refreshing twist to the dish.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Oysters by Mani

Iberica – Oysters by Mani

Mango, beer and black pudding by Chef Juan Mari Arzak, of Arzak in Spain (N°17 *), served in a beer can was visually arresting. The black pudding was well made, but on the whole this tapa was unremarkable.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Mango & beer By Arzak

Iberica – Mango & beer By Arzak

Beef tartare with vinaigrette and anchovies by Chef Dieter Koschina of Vila Joya in Portugal (N°98 *) came within inches of perfection. This was a delight to eat with the anchovies providing the perfect contrast and seasoning to the depth of flavour in the beef. But the spread of the anchovies in the tartare was a little uneven, and with a few more anchovies the tartare would have been absolutely perfect.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Beef tartare by Vila Joya

Iberica – Beef tartare by Vila Joya

Avocado toast with bone marrow salsa, cucumber and sea urchin by Chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico (N°16 *) was interesting with its eclectic combination of ingredients. But as unusual as it was, every element came together wonderfully to provide a harmonious union of flavours. There was earthiness from the avocado, fatty creaminess from the marrow, and an extravagant sea flavour from the sea urchin, which was well balanced and not overpowering.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Avocado toast by Pujol

Iberica – Avocado toast by Pujol

Foie Cuba libre with lemon frost by Chef Quique Dacosta of Quique Dacosta Restaurant in Spain (N°39 *) was also delicious. The base of a beautifully creamy foie gras had been topped with a delicately flavoured lemon frost. This was delicious but not particularly disimilar to other foie gras parfaits you might try elsewhere.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Foie Cuba by Quique Dacosta

Iberica – Foie Cuba by Quique Dacosta

Fresh chorizo tartar by Chef Bittor Arguinzoniz of Asador Etxebarri in Spain (N°13 *) was next, and I didn’t understand the point of this dish. It lacked the intensity of flavour you might ordinarily get from chorizo. Furthermore it had a slightly odd texture. The tartar was original in it is conception but not particularly memorable for its flavour.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Fresh chorizo tartar by Asador Etxebarri

Iberica – Fresh chorizo tartar by Asador Etxebarri

Squid parmentier with red smoked Spanish paprika and squid stock by Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Spain (The World’s Best Restaurant *) was a lovely dish and beautifully presented. The squid was soft and the paprika graced the squid with a hint of spiciness. At the based of the dish was a bed of lovely mashed potato. But the highlight was undoubtedly the squid stock, an exquisite concoction of intense flavour that brought the dish together.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Squid parmentier by El Celler de Can Roca

Iberica – Squid parmentier by El Celler de Can Roca

Rustic bread with fresh pancetta and spring herbs by Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain (N°6 *) was scrumptious in its simplicity. Lusciously fatty pieces of pancetta and fresh herbs served on warm bread provided a lovely explosion of flavours, especially as some of the fattiness of the pancetta had melted with the heat of the toast. Comparatively speaking, this tapa was less interesting than some of the others that preceded it. Yet there was no lack of flavour.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Rustic bread by Mugaritz

Iberica – Rustic bread by Mugaritz

The dessert was watermelon infused in sangria by Chef Albert Adria of Tickets in Spain (The World’s Best Pastry Chef). This was somewhat of a disappointment as it was merely watermelon infused with sangria. I had hoped for a recipe of more innovation from ‘The World’s Best Pastry Chef’.

Iberica - London Food Blog - Watermelon with sangria

Iberica – Watermelon with sangria

There was a plethora of delights to behold as part of The Great Chefs Great Causes campaign at Iberica. Many tapas dishes were original and interesting, with a few that proved to be particularly exceptional and delicious. But there were some which didn’t quite hold the torch as far as a 50 Best Restaurant goes, so chose your week of visit carefully as each of the dishes are rotated on a weekly basis.

Website: http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/great-chefs-great-causes/


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Boqueria Market

BOQUERIA MARKET

Boqueria Market on Queenstown Road is the second branch of Boqueria, a Spanish tapas restaurant group. I visited the original Boqueria on Acre Lane in Brixton about 18 months ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The food was fresh and wholesome and the service was lovely. So once again I found myself south of the river to discover what Boqueria Market had to offer.

Boqueria Market is a really smart looking restaurant. The setting is intimate and the lighting is soft. The restaurant feels relaxed, yet there is a buzzy vibe to it that makes for an engaging dining experience. The menu is similar to the Acre Lane branch and includes a selection of traditional and contemporary tapas as well as a lovely variety of Spanish wines and sherries.

We began our meal with the premium jamón ibérico puro bellota (acorn-fed pure breed Iberico ham – large plate for £18). This was delicious with an intensely sweet flavour and earthy, nutty overtones. The pieces of fat running through the jamón were delicious too, with a melting, soft quality.

London food blog Boqueria - Jamón Ibérico

Boqueria – Jamón Ibérico

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Barrafina Frith Street – Visit No. 2

BARRAFINA

Barrafina Frith Street opened to critical acclaim in 2007 following on from the success of its sister restaurant Fino, both of which are owned by the restaurateur brothers Sam and Eddie Hart. 2014 proved to be a great year for the pair, with a second branch of Barrafina opening on Adelaide Street, also to critical acclaim, and the original Barrafina on Frith Street winning a Michelin star.

As most Londoners know, Barrafina Frith Street is a tiny establishment. There are 23 stools which line the L-shaped marbled bar. There is a no-booking policy which means that at peak times diners can expect to wait for at least an hour before being seated. I first visited Barrafina in 2010 and thought it was brilliant (you can read about that visit here). The only thing that deterred me from going back was the thought of that dreaded queue. But with a Michelin Star comes the weight of added expectation. So despite the knowledge that we would have to wait, it felt like the right time for a revisit.

And wait we did, an hour and a half no less, and this was on a Tuesday evening. The saving grace was the fact that we were able to order drinks and nibbles as we stood in line. That said, the service was incredibly slow and we struggled to be noticed or served.

We started with two old favourites, the croquetas and the tortilla. Ham croquetas (2 for £4.50) contained a deliciously creamy béchamel filling and a crunchy exterior. They were a little salty, but they were very tasty. A prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla (£7) came with a runny centre that was lovely and warm. This was also tasty, but in contrast to the croquetas, was a little under seasoned.

Barrafina Frith Street - Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street – Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

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Fino

FINO

Fino Restaurant opened in 2003 and became one of the first restaurants in London to offer a contemporary brand of Spanish tapas. Others followed, but Fino has managed to carve out a niche as an oldie but a goodie on the London tapas scene. Fino comes from the hands of Sam and Eddie Hart, the well-known restaurateur brothers that also brought the critically acclaimed Barrafina to London. The original branch of Barrafina opened on Frith Street in Soho in 2007 and went on to won a Michelin star in 2014. A second branch of Barrafina also opened on Adelaide Street last year.

Fino’s Executive Head Chef is Nieves Barragán Mohacho who originates from the Basque country. Her menu changes daily, drawing on influences from not only the Basque region but from throughout Spain. The Fino menu makes for a tempting read, interspersing modern influences among much loved Spanish classics.

Fino has an address on Charlotte Street although the entrance itself is located on Rathbone Street. From here, diners are led to Fino’s restaurant and bar area in the basement. The interior is contemporary and boasts of a relaxed ambience. It is also spacious and well laid out, which unlike the tiny spaces of both the Barrafinas, would accommodate large parties well.

We tried the Cecina de León (£9.80), a smoked and dried beef which was maroon in colour. It was juicy with a strong character and a slightly fibrous consistency. Lightly salted and with small bits of fat running through it, the beef was delicious.

Fino - Cecina de León

Cecina de León

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