Posts for the 'Tapas' Category


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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El Pirata de Tapas

El Pirata de Tapas in Notting Hill, sister restaurant to El Pirata de Tapas Mayfair, came to fame when Gordon Ramsay named it one of his ‘Best Spanish Restaurants in the UK’ in 2010 on his Ramsay’s Best Restaurant TV programme. That recognition belonged to a time when El Bulli trained Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy was still the head chef at El Pirata de Tapas (co-incidentally Allibhoy had also worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant under Jason Atherton prior to taking over the reins at El Pirata de Tapas). These days Allibhoy is busy with other ventures such as his books and Tapas Revolution with the current head chef at El Pirata de Tapas being a Julian Gil.

El Pirata de Tapas is a comfortable looking restaurant and is suitable casual in keeping with the many other casual eating options along Westbourne Grove. The restaurant serves a modern tapas menu, a throw back to the days of Allibhoy.

There was a great value set lunch menu at £9.95 for two tapas dishes including bread and wine, but we elected for the more adventurous offerings from the standard a la carte menu.

Seared scallops (£9) were nicely cooked and came with a sweet and delicious onion purée that worked well with the scallops and some pork roulade that was quite fatty. Overall this was a nice dish but it would have been better had it not come out cold.

El Pirata de Tapas - Seared scallops

Seared scallops

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Tapas Revolution

Tapas Revolution is the brainchild of Spanish Chef Omar Allibhoy who noteable includes Ferran Adria’s El Bulli on his CV. With a desire to spread the word on tapas in the UK, Tapas Revolution was borne – both a cookbook and a restaurant chain which sees two branches to its name, one in Westfield’s Shepherd’s Bush, and the other in Bluewater. You can find Tapas Revolution in the centre of the mall surrounded by shops rather than the Southern Terrace ‘restaurant strip’ at Westfield’s. And rather than being a sit-in restaurant, the outlet has been designed as an uncovered eatery where diners perch on bar stools around a rectangular bar area.

Tapas Revolution

Tapas Revolution

The highlight of our meal was the hams. Jamón ibérico de bellota Guijuelo (£8.95), an Acorn-fed Iberian ham voted the 2013 IFFA best ham in the world, was excellent. Full of flavour, it was also a generous portion for the price. Also tasty was the 18 month cured jamón serrano del consorcio (£5.25), which was again very reasonably priced for both the quality and quantity.

Jamón ibérico & toasted tomato bread

Jamón ibérico & toasted tomato bread

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Monikers

The bus

The bus

Monikers restaurant and bar recently opened on a corner of Hoxton Square, on a site that was previously occupied by The Hoxton Apprentice, a Training for Life charity restaurant that was set up to train young chefs in the same vein as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The building was once an old schoolhouse and Monikers has cleverly maintained the spirit of its former history with a vintage blackboard that lists the daily specials. The wittiness continues with the upstairs area boasting a façade of an old London bus with trendy retro vinyl seats. It’s all very cool, and the restaurant exudes a sense of Hoxton fun. The bar area is funky as well with its chemistry-style water beakers and science-lab stools, and here you can sample some lovely cocktails such as the Greta Garbo (£8.50) with calvados, rhubarb, agave syrup and champagne, and the French 75 (£7.50) with gin, lemon, sugar and champagne.

Cocktails

Cocktails

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Boqueria

There’s no shortage of tapas restaurants in London and Boqueria on Acre Lane is another. It’s a charming looking restaurant perched on the Brixton borders with a relaxed feel to it and a modern décor. Roughly L-shaped, the section towards the back has glass-paneled ceilings overhead that allow in lots of lovely natural light. The menu boasts a reasonable range of choices with both a traditional and contemporary approach.

As is standard at a tapas restaurant we tried a large variety of dishes starting with some marcona almonds (£2.30) to nibble on that were crunchy, nicely seasoned and gloriously delicious. These nuts were a delicious way to being our meal. From the specials, innovative suckling pig croquetas boasted of some lovely sweetness from the suckling pig filling (£6.30) and were really yummy.

Marcona almonds & suckling pig croquetas

Marcona almonds & suckling pig croquetas

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Codorníu Cava’s Great British Tapas Project at Pizarro

I love José Pizarro’s food. Spanish tapas through and through, his cooking is soulful and delicious, simply yet refined. My favourite of his restaurants is his flagship self-named José on Bermondsey Street. The food is not only fabulous and reasonably priced, but the restaurant also has a wonderful intimate feel to it. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed his second restaurant Pizarro as well (also on Bermondsey Street), but the original is a pretty special place. And it’s not just me who enjoys José’s food. His restaurants have also won a string of awards including Newcomer of the Year 2012 and Restaurant of the Year 2012 from Food and Travel Magazine, and Restaurant of the Year 2012 from The World Food Awards.

Chef Pizarro recently teamed up with Barcelona’s renowned cava brand, Codorníu, to launch a special Great British Tapas Project. A nationwide survey was commissioned by Codorníu cava to determine the UK’s top five most-loved dishes. José was then to transform these much loved British dishes into tapas with a Spanish twist.

So in order of preference, the top five dishes most loved by the British are roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, apple crumble and custard, fish and chips, a full English and shepherd’s pie. With these results, José managed to come up with some amazing gems at the launch of The Great British Tapas project at Pizarro Restaurant earlier this week.

The roast beef, placed in a mini Yorkshire pudding, was cooked medium rare. It had a wonderful flavour, was incredibly succulent and had been touched some with pimentón for added flair.

Roast beef Yorkshire mini puds

Roast beef Yorkshire mini puds

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