The sun soaked streets and palm-lined beaches of Spain may be a couple of hours away from ol’ Blightly, but there is a new restaurant on the block that hopes to transport you there within just a few mouthfuls. El Norte opened its doors late last year (December 2021), set on the well-heeled Dover Street in Mayfair. Its esteemed neighbours are the likes of Louboutin, Victoria Beckham’s store, and the five-star Brown’s hotel, which accurately sets the tone of the level of luxury at the restaurant.
El Norte is the third venture from brothers Arian and Alberto Zandi, owners of Latin-American restaurant Zuaya and Italian eatery Como Garden, and despite being ‘The North‘ by name, focuses on traditional Spanish dishes from different regions all over the country. The brothers, who were born in Madrid, are known for fusing excellent food with striking design, and their newest restaurant follows suit.
As you enter El Norte, the low lighting and ambient music sets the tone perfectly. There is an 80s vibe in the decor, from the colours down to the style of lampshade, but with an ‘outdoors inside’ feel too; replicas of olive trees punctuate the walls and table partitions. As we were seated at our table, we experienced such warm hospitality from the staff, which continued throughout our meal. The team here work closely with Spanish suppliers to source the finest ingredients; this was clear in the meal we ate. The menu features a selection of nibbles (para vicar), meat (carnes), seafood (pescados y mariscos) and sides (para acompañar). There is also a selection of seasonal vegetables and salad available. We started with a few para vicar, our favourite being the truffle omelette. A high-end twist on the humble Spanish omelette, the dish had a deep garlic and truffle flavour, delightfully warming after coming in from the cold March streets. The croquettes were pretty great too; they had a nice crunch to the outer layer, and light tangy taste within.
For mains, we tried the glazed Iberian pork and the wild seabass. Both dishes were divine, though I would say the Iberian pork was just a minuscule step ahead, personally. Perfectly paired with the crispy, salty panadera potatoes, the pork was tender, smoky and rich of flavour. The seabass was light, fresh and had a flawlessly crisped skin, and would be ideal for a light summer dish.
El Norte’s bar is the focal point of the restaurant – and with good reason. The drinks were excellent. There is an extensive drinks list, which features new takes on the classics – like sangria – plus house-made special cocktails, like The El Norte (Tio Pepe liquor, raspberry vodka, wild berry jam, basil and prosecco) and Agua De Valencia (gin, vodka, orange juice and prosecco). If you’re after a bit of a show, the Chamomile Mai Thai is where it’s at. The drink will be brought to your table, then flourished with a flame over a shot of absinthe, served in a fig. If you’re at El Norte on a date, sparks will fly over this cocktail – literally.
Whether you are visiting with a partner, catching up with friends, or passing through for a few dishes after a luxury shopping trip, a meal at El Norte is most definitely a treat. The Zandi brothers’ bold approach is clear in the dishes, decor and drinks, the service is great, and it is a wonderful spot for a decadent dinner.