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Hot Tables: Tapas

Our pick of the best new wave tapas in town. Check the wine lists too while your chorizo burns.

Written by . Published on January 18th 2012.


Hot Tables: Tapas

TAPAS, literally means covered, and derives from protecting your food from flies, a problem for Andalusian sherry drinkers historically speaking. Where London’s new wave tapas bars may have some way to go to rival their Barcelona counterparts in terms of invention and style, they have brought a fresh and fun aspect to eating and drinking out, not least also in bringing in some fascinating new wines from Spain such as albariño, verdejo, godello, mencia, bobal, graciano and cariñena etc. This is our current pick of the best of the Spanish variations – as opposed to the small plates cuisine being pioneered by others.

Morito (32 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE, 0207 278 7007) Moro’s little sibling, an L-shaped squeeze with tiles and a blackboard menu is scrubbed down with new dishes as the kitchen copes with the crush for often north African influenced dishes like aubergine with sweet molasses or the crisp slow cooked belly pork.

Barrafina

Barrafina (54 Frith Street, London W1D 4SL, 0207 813 8016) You may have to queue for half an hour before this smart Soho bar opens to get a table or else stand and lean and have a glass. Everything is cooked to order and the fish is on show so you can check the freshness. The black pudding with quail egg on peppers is a stand-out dish.

José (104 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UB, 0207 403 4902) As Confidential followers know, we are big fans of Jose Pizarro and not just his food because his wine selection is also pretty visionary. It gets a squeeze but that is partly the point. And everyone is very jolly. If the queue is too long his excellent new restaurant is just down the road at 194, same ideas, bigger portions, check also the small list of fine wines selling for a snip.

Barrica (62 Goodge Street, London W1T 4NE, 0207 436 9448) Original, popular, solid – specials might be cauliflower with cumin, or grilled leg of lamb with lemon and pine nuts. The wines too get plenty of care and attention.

Copita (26 D'Arblay Street, London W1F 8EP, 0207 287 7797) Named after the sherry glass, new off shoot for Barrica (above) – tall stools and tall tables have been rammed in the evenings, quieter at lunch with English head chef James Knight.

Ibérica (12 Cabot Square, London E14 4QQ and 195 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5PS) Bills itself as a cultural centre – which means a few books, vases and an inviting selection of imported groceries. The Great Portland Street veers on the business-y while Canary Wharf’s new outlet is more café-esque. The menu has some fun – was it here the where the iberico burger was born? Or the fried chorizo lollipops? Good paellas if you are eating with friends.

Capote y Toros and Tendido Cero (157 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington SW5 0LJ, 0207 373 0567 and 174 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, SW5 0BA, 0207 370 3685) Abel Lusa now has two other venues on Old Brompton Road beside his great Spanish restaurant Cambio de Tercio. Capote y Toros is more wine bar while Tendido is up market tapas cooked to order, albeit at a starting point of £7. Tends to be taken over by parents who think tapas is another word for kids portions. There is another outlet too in Parson’s Green – Tendido Cuatro (108-110 New King's Road SW6 4LY).

Tapas-Revolution

Tapas Revolution (Kiosk K2024, The Balcony, Westfield, W12 7SL and Upper Mall Bluewater, Greenhithe DA9 9ST) Just proving that shopping mall food does not have to be the province of chains… Omar Allibhoy shows how it should be done. 

Lola Rojo (78 Northcote Road, London SW11 6QL, 0207 350 2262) A little more of a restaurant in small portions meaning visionary suppers like cod with black pudding or potato ravioli with oxtail…formerly across the bridge in Fulham.

El Parador (245 Eversholt Street, Camden NW1 1BA, 0207 387 2789) Noisy, small, well known by locals even though slightly off the usual restaurant dragways, so book ahead. More than 40 imaginative tapas with an emphasis towards vegetarian plus carefully chosen wines. In the summer there is a garden.

Angels & Gypsies (29-33 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR, 020 7703 5984) Camberwell’s finest draws the crowds to this horseshoe, predominantly wooden Sunday school décor for the likes of slow cooked pork with plum and clementines. Best to book. 

Mar-I-Terra

Mar i Terra (14 Gambia Street, London SE1 0XH, 0207 928 7628) Bit of a hideaway from the theatre crowds that overrun Waterloo’s eating scene, converted pub which usually has enough space – no bookings though – for a Catalan cooking that might include rabbit casserole and classics like spinach with pine nuts. Good wines to explore.

Brindisa (18-20 Southwark Street, London Bridge SE1 1TJ and 46 Broadwick Street, Soho W1F 7AF) Brindisa’s claim to fame is as one of the great importers of specialist Spanish produce into the capital. There is a shop in Borough plus the conservative but superlative tapas bar that can get overrun with drinkers, and now a newer, again slightly formal Soho outlet which has the potential advantage of taking bookings. 

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