How has it taken us so long to get a feature out on Tapas? It’s that nibbling, picking, finger-licking thing that the Spanish get so right and the Brits just can’t get enough of. In recent years, Spanish-style eating has exploded across the capital and nowadays London has got so much to offer that a top-quality pincho of tortilla no longer has to involve an EasyJet flight to Barcelona and some rather dodgy tan lines… Here’s our pick of the best.
1. For the dream date – Ember Yard, Soho.
Let’s face it, after the success of Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern, the youngest of the small plate siblings was always going to impress. Ember Yard, however, places more emphasis on the grill, incorporating Italian as well as smokey Spanish influences into its impressive menu of tapas, bar snacks and charcuterie sharing platters. Achingly cool and decked out in the Art Deco style across the ground floor and basement, you’d never believe this restaurant was situated just a stone’s throw away from Oxford Street. But don’t let the hordes of late night shoppers put you off.
Venture downstairs for the dream date setting; there’s something about pulling a bar stool up to a wooden counter and ordering a Vintage Negroni that makes you know you’re in for a good night. And with a sophisticated cocktail menu inspired by grilling and smoking classic ingredients, she won’t be disappointed. Try the Il Profumo di Maria – it’s a mix of vodka, violets, elderflower and prosecco. Lifting the lid and watching the cherry smoke escape might make you believe in magic and if not, the lingering taste of Palma Violets will definitely transport you back to the days when you used to.
Move on to Red and order in a board of the finest Iberian ham, a selection of three manchegos and padrón peppers (be careful – some bite). It teases and tempts you in that way that Tapas does, leaving gaps hanging for good conversation and enough space in your stomach to share a dessert.
60 Berwick Street, W1F 8SU
2. For the so good you can’t book it – Barrafina, multiple locations.
Expect to see queues of people stretching all around Soho for this one. Even more so now that the no-reservations Spanish tapas bar has been named the best restaurant in Britain at the National Restaurant Awards. When you taste their tortilla, you’ll understand why. Caramelised onions and an oozing centre so sloppy you could spread it on bread (we did – no one judged) – it’s the best pincho you’ll ever eat outside of Spain.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try the lamb’s brain and if you’re in need of a hug, the crab croquetas wrap you up in that guilty-but-good way that only the best comfort food can. Get there early (we’re talking 4.30pm early) – and sharpen those elbows.
Multiple locations – see their website.
3. For the new kid on the block: Lobos, Borough.
As you enter Lobos, a pegboard sign greets you with the words, “MEAT & TAPAS: the wolf is always evil if you only listen to Red Riding Hood”. It’s probably fair to say that Lobos doesn’t cater for veggies. The brutalist theme extends into the interior too; nestled under a railway arch, the ceiling hangs low and the staff all sport black T-Shirts saying “Attitude”, “Captured”, “Instinto”. They mean business.
There’s not a (v) lurking anywhere on the menu: from the Iberico Pork Selection to the ham, chorizo and smoked bacon croquetas, the only guests invited to the kitchen at Lobos are four-legged. And boy, are they tasty. A glass of unfiltered sherry on the side? Now that’s what we call tapas.
14 Borough High Street, SE1 9QG
Featured Image Credit: About Time Magazine