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.


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.

1) The skrei cod was a little salty.

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

Prices: About £35 to £45 a head.


Square Meal

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

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Morada Brindisa Asador – Calcotada

Morada Brindisa Asador is part of the Brindisa family, but instead of focusing on tapas, it brings Castilian tradition to London with an emphasis on roasting meats in an “asador”- a vast wood fired oven.

Morada Brindisa Asador - London Food Blog

Morada Brindisa Asador

We attended a traditional calҫotada earlier this month, held at the restaurant only on weekends in February and March. A calҫot is a Catalan onion, described as a vegetable somewhere between a spring onion and a leek. We could have never imagined this vegetable could be such a highlight in the delicious, social gathering that the calҫotada is.

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The team behind the wonderful Spanish tapas restaurant Donostia recently launched a new restaurant, Lurra, a few months ago. Located a few steps down from it’s big sister, Lurra is similarly a celebration of Basque food. Lurra means “land”, and draws its inspiration from the traditional charcoal and wood grills of the region.

Lurra is a sleek looking outfit. The entrance is small and initially leads into a narrow space. On the right were some refrigerators boasting an impressive range of 14 year Rubia Gallega “Galician Blond” Prime Rib which forms part of the menu (but more on this later). Thereafter you enter the main restaurant area on the ground floor, a well-proportioned, comfortable and airy space with a glass wall that looks out onto the courtyard. There is also another well-lit dining area on the first floor, but the ground floor offers much more charm.

Lurra - London Food Blog - Prime rib

Lurra – Prime rib

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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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Street XO Madrid


Street XO in Madrid is the casual eatery by David Munoz, the chef of the highly acclaimed DiverXO, the only restaurant in Madrid with three Michelin stars. David Munoz has long tantalised diners far and wide with his extraordinary renegade approach to fine dining. When Anthony Bourdain visited DiverXO on his show No Reservations in 2010 (and I particularly loved the programme on Madrid and DiverXO), he declared that Munoz’s food was “something that should probably suck”, yet he ended up proclaiming his love for it. Back then in 2010, DiverXO only had one Michelin Star. Now DiverXO has three.

Munoz’s approach to food is designed to shock and delight, and with Street XO his approach to cooking is no less electrifying. Street XO is a temple to Asian fusion gastronomy, and draws upon an incredibly bold use of ingredients, seamlessly weaving together Western techniques with inspirations from across Asia to produce food that is colourful, delicious and different.

The décor of Street XO is no less daring. The grungy ‘street’ look of the restaurant is completed with ‘graffiti’ on the walls, neon signs and bright red colours. Diners can choose to sit on bar stools around the open kitchen or dine al fresco on the balcony, waited on by waiting staff dressed in straitjackets. This is clearly no run-of-the-mill restaurant.

One of the signatures at Street XO is the Pekingese ‘dumplings’ (€12.50) with pork, crunchy pig’s ear, strawberry hoisin sauce, togarashi aioli and gherkins. These did not resemble traditional Chinese dumplings, with the presentation representing a piece of modern art. Yet the dumplings thrilled with their exquisite flavours and arresting ingredient combinations. The meat was beautifully moist, the pig’s ear was lusciously crunchy and there was a nice touch of spiciness in the creamy aioli. The gorgeous dumplings were simultaneously creamy, fatty and crunchy, tempered by a touch of acidity from the gherkins.

Street XO - London Food Blog - Pekingese ‘dumplings’

Street XO – Pekingese ‘dumplings’

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Al Trapo, Madrid


Al Trapo Restaurant in Madrid is a slick operation serving a fun-filled, modern menu by renowned Spanish chef Paco Morales. With Al Trapo, Paco Morales’ vision was to give diners complete freedom to mix and choose so that they could personalise their own sharing experience. In 2011 Paco Morales was awarded a Michelin star for his Restaurant “Ferrero-Paco Morales” which closed in 2013. With his Michelin star background, Paco Morales brings a level of refinement to the quirky menu.

Situated on the ground floor of the IBEROSTAR Las Letras Gran Vía, the concept behind Al Trapo’s menu revolves around different inspirations, each of which are originally titled. The inspirations begin with ‘To eat with your hands and lick your fingers’, a section devoted to small canapé sized tasters. From there it moves on to ‘Gentle And Classy’ for something subtle and then to ‘Roguish and zingy’ for something more bold. ‘Meseta and sea’ are for all things swimmingly delicious, and then there is ‘From just around the corner’ which provides diners with a taste of traditional Spanish flavours. For a touch of the international there is ‘So far and yet so near’. A selection of ‘Cheeses from far and near’ and ‘Desserts, little indulgences’ round off the choice of culinary delights to be savoured at Al Trapo. Each section features about four to six dishes.

Our first stop was ‘To Eat With Your Hands And Lick Your Fingers’ where we tried a number of different items, the first of which was the Spanish tortilla soufflé bites with green bell peppers and anchovies (€5 – 4 pieces). These were really interesting. Inside the thin crispy aerated bread shell was a ‘cream’ filling that tasted like an eggy tortilla. The filling was a little salty, but was otherwise really tasty with a beautifully smooth texture.

Al Trapo - London Food Blog - Spanish tortilla

Al Trapo – Spanish tortilla

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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.


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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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