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Posts Tagged ‘tapas in London’

Cuisine: Contemporary seasonal Spanish tapas.

Visit: March 2013

Price: Medium (very reasonable for central London as both the quality of food and the portions you get are well above average).

Refreshing Spanish salad at Fino

Refreshing Spanish salad

Food: Contemporary twist on traditional Spanish dishes. If you select from the classics such as the Jamón de bellota senorio (Bellota ham), ham and  piquillo croquetas (deep-fried and battered potato balls with ham or not spicy sweet red peppers) Pimientos de padron (small green peppers fried and served sprinkled with crunchy salt) and sliced Manchego cheese (hard sheep cheese from Spain), you cannot  go wrong. All these tapas are indeed very good and authentic.

Choosing something perhaps less common for a Spanish tapas bar table might be interesting for those of you preferring innovative and less oily dishes in the style of the popular London-based chef José Pizarro. One such treat are the Crisp fried artichokes, that look like a lovely flower decoration, but taste like real artichokes. Fried just enough, with no oil dripping from the crisp vegetables and the mayonnaise-based dip is rich yet spicy with some hot paprika powder sprinkled over it.

Crisp fried artichokes

Crisp fried artichokes

Another, more refreshing contemporary tapas is the Fennel, radish & pomegranate salad. It is so crisp and zesty that it reminds me of spring and sitting on the beach by breezy see. Lovely salad that can freshen up your palate between the fatty meaty, fried and cheese dominated spanish dishes.

With wine the bruschetta-style toasted bread goes very well. The Pan con tomate is great with young red wines or refreshing white Verdejos. It is rather a big slice of bread and not a tiny piece of baguette, so be ready for a proper sized plate. The juicy tomatoes spread over the crunchy bread balance the dryness of the toasting process.

Pan con tomate

Pan con tomate

From the seafood the grilled Octopus & capers served on a wooden tray is very good, although a larger portion than is common for a tapa. The multiple pieces of baby octopus were tender, not chewy and spiced just right.

Fino sandwich

Fino sandwich

The deep-fried Fino sandwich is as its name suggests the signature dish of Fino so we had to try it. The name of the sandwich is also a bit deceiving, but you have to try it. I will not tell you what it is all about, but picture below can give you a hint. Just come to Fino and try it for yourself, it is quite interesting and if you like something crunchy and are not a vegetarian you will probably like it a lot.

Drinks: The mostly Spanish wine list is very good. Depending on how deep into your pocket you have, select one of the the top ranked Ribera del Dueros (such as the Vega Sicilia Unico), the middle-of-the-road Priorats or one of the more affordable Riojas. Red wine is in general a better choice because of the richness of the food, nevertheless a crisp Verdejo or deep Godello for an aperitif is a great start and both will surely go well with the seafood dishes. We went for one of the newer wines of the Alvarez family, of the Vega Sicilia fame. Their Alión Cosecha 2006 is deep and structured Tempranillo expressing in its concentration the dry climate of the  Duero area. Complex wine with very long finish that calls for intense dishes to match.

Ribera del Duero with jamon

Ribera del Duero with jamón

Atmosphere: Modern, fresh, fun and vibrant. There are many people coming straight after work, so you will see some ties there, but overall you can wear something casual. Comfort lovers will love the cosy booths, bar fans appreciate a corner bar area with views of the restaurant, curious minds will surely often peak into the open kitchen and exciting interiors seeking crowd will be amused with interesting decorative finishes. It is a great place to go with friends, business partners not relishing overtly pretentious gastronomic restaurants or bringing there a first date since it does not feel too intimate.

Cosy interior of Fino

Cosy interior of Fino

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00–2:15 pm, 6:00–10:15 pm, Sat:6:00pm-10:15pm , Sunday: Closed.

Address: 33 Charlotte St  London W1T 1RR, United Kingdom

Contact: Tel: +(44) 20 7813 8010

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Cusine: Spanish tapas

Visit: July 2012

Price: Medium. The quality speaks for itself – a plate of an excellent Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado comes to £20.00, but croquetas (croquettes) and other similar tapas around £6.

The tapas bar at Pizarro

Chef: There is one famous Pizarro – the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro González, who conquered the Inca empire in South America and was assassinated in Lima in the 16th century, yet, today there is another Spaniard gaining fame as he is conquering the London’s restaurant scene. First cooking at the tapas bar Brindisa and now he opened his two new places at once!

The chefs’ table behind the bar at Pizarro

Josè Pizarro is becoming a legend. With his new cookbook Seasonal Spanish Food under his hand and success at tapas bars Brindisa in London, opening his own place was just the next reasonable step. His sherry and tapas bar José on Bermondsey Street is very small taster of his Spanish heritage, but if you walk a couple of blocks further you can taste his daily changed rainbow of flavors at the full-size restaurant Pizarro.

Seafood – ceviche inspired tapa at Pizarro

Atmosphere: busy, vibrant, rushed but also friendly and casual. The staff is accommodating and explains all the questions you might rise. There are long so-called common tables, the recently highly popular concept of sharing a large table with unknown people has picked up very well in the over-crowded London.

Food: basic, rustic recipes using mostly local and fresh ingredients the chef sources on London’s markets. The restaurant’s proximity to the famous Borough market calls for a visit by the chef. After all, it was there where Brindisa, Pizarro’s first successful tapas adventure is located.

His tremendous skill to find the right ingredients proved with our first order – Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado. An outstanding leaner ham pleasing even the harshest critics of chewy fat in meat and preferring the clean texture of pure meat.

Ceviche is another dish on which the quality of ingredients shows off. This Peruvian fish and seafood inspired dish boosting with lemon and zesty onions got a makeover by Pizarro. Adding the olive oil and some crispy greens have transferred this currently fashionable dish to a Spanish richer tapa. After all who knows if it were not the Spaniards who introduced ceviche to Peru and Chile, since their influence during the conquest of the region is indisputable.

Morcilla – Spanish take on a blood sausage

Morcilla is the Spanish name for a blood sausage. The Iberic drier, less blood-leaking version is perhaps my favorite from the all national takes I have had in Europe so far (France, UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia and others have their own versions of this dish). At Pizarro it is served with grilled stripes of red peppers sprinkled with herbs and olive oil. What a treat with a glass of full-bodied Rioja or even the power-raging Priorat. This dish is an interesting interplay between cold and warm courses. I would not start with it as it has quite powerful taste and any lighter dish would vanish in the terms of taste profile after this delicacy.

One of the possible followers though may be Croquetas, the fried balls filled with cheese and potato mash. The croquettes are rich mainly because of the addition of aromatic sheep cheese giving the balls a more chewy texture. Really tasty take on this Spanish staple food.

Croquetas – the remaining two (they’ve gone fast)

Checking out the “daily specials” board hanging on the wall, we have switched to one lighter dish – a crispy salad with sheep cheese. A great starter or a refresher after heavier meat-based tapas. Crisp lettuce leaves and celery were mellowed by the soft cheese and olive oil based dressing. If they offered it again I would go for it without thinking.

Crunchy salad with cheep cheese

The most creative dish from our tapas selection was a Lentil stew with carrots, mushrooms and almonds. It does not have the look of a posh dish, yet it is supreme! The combination of lentils with mushrooms, almond flakes and veggies would have never came to my mind. It is this daring and original combination of ingredients what makes Jose Pizarro a great chef.

Lentil stew with mushrooms

Drinks: A large choice of cava, sherries and wines by the glass from all over Spain. From a glass of Godello to a blend of for Spain quirky sounding Hondarribi Zuri with Hondarribi Beltza, one can try so far unknown varietals for him/her or stick to a familiar glass of Rioja or Albarinho. Dessert wine by the glass feature on the list as well. And if you would rather some beer (cerveza) with the tapas the Alhambra Especial will not disappoint.

Contact: +(44)020 7378 9455

Address: 194, Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TO, UK

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12.00– 23.00; Lunch 12 noon – 3pm & Dinner 6 – 11pm

Bar open all day serving cold cuts, coffees and desserts 12 noon – 11pm

Sat 12.00 – 23.00; Sun 10.00 – 22.00 Bar and restaurant open all day – Brunch Menu 10am – 2pm

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Cuisine: Spanish tapas

I headline Pix as the most tempting tapas bar in London because of its genial concept of laying out seductively looking tapas on the bar right by the entrance. If you resist these, then a waiter carrying around trays of freshly prepared pieces to tempt your taste buds might persuade you to pick one or two. This option the founders of the Pix concept applied just in case you are lazy to walk from your seat to the bar for new pieces. Well, we ended up doing both as the food here was so good.

Fresh figs & goat cheese tapa

Visit: May 2012

Price: low for central London (£1.90 – less than £4 a piece); you basically pay for how much you eat which is fair.

Chorizo on manchego

Atmosphere: buzzing, energizing, young and fast. Sitting either along the walls, on high bar chairs or at a classical low table you will find what suits your dining style the most. The service is very friendly, knowledgable and quite fast. Although, the last point is not necessary at Pix since you serve the food yourself.

Pix Pintxos in Soho

Food: Fresh, creative and in many cases simple, but the choice of ingredients makes up for the simplicity. As was in the case of a tapa of fresh goat cheese with a juicy fig on a slice of baguette, it was so tasty that I had to get it twice. Another cheesy dish worth mentioning was a red pepper stuffed with goat cheese grilled in oven. A stick cutting through it is serving something like a receipt. Each table gets a glass into which you drop the sticks accompanying each course and as you decide to leave you just bring your glass to the bar and they count it for you. How witty!

Pepper with goat cheese & tuna sahimi with marinated peppers (below)

Japanese influence is tangible in many worlds cuisines today and Spanish is not an exception.
In a delicious tapa of tuna sashimi with pickled peppers on a slice of baguette one can see the two cuisines intertwine. This was my favourite dish right after the pepper filled with goat cheese.

Gazpacho

Refreshing you palate with a tomato gazpacho (chilled vegetable soup) served in a martini glass makes you feel like a James Bond, yet it is a healthier and non-alcoholic alternative to his favourite drink. A sizzle stick pinching a tiny mozzarella and basil is not just cute, but also a tasty finish of this dish.

Chicken skewer

From spicy chorizo (pork sausage) to chicken skewers, the meat is an important part of Spanish cuisine so it cannot be left out. The chorizo is served with a slice of manchego – hard and intensely tasting sheep cheese. This tapa is perfect with a glass of red Rioja or Ribera del Duero wines. The chicken is tender yet full of flavor from a marinade. Served with a fresh yoghurt and herb sauce, just dip in and enjoy with a glass of aromatic white Albariňo.

Pix drinks

Drinks: You at a tapas bar, so Sangria, the wine-based refreshing and slightly sweet drink with chopped pieces of fruits and ice, is the drink of a first choice. Sangria has one disadvantage or actually two. Firstly you get a quite bad hangover from as it drinks so easy and secondly it is not the best companion to food. It is too filling and fruity that it overpowers or clashes with most of food. I would leave that one at the wand instead of a dessert or to drink it on its own.

The wines-by-the-glass selection at Pix is more than satisfying. There are wines from all over Spain, made from different grapes and suiting any budget. It is important to have a wide choice of the wines-by-the-glass at a tapas bar as one can move to a different wine as he/she pleases and as the type of tapa requires.

Opening hours & contact: Mon-Thurs: 12:00-11:30pm; Fri-Sat: 12:00 noon-midnight; Sun: 12:00 noon-10:00pm; Tel: +(44)0207 437 0377
Address: 16 Bateman Street, Soho, London, W1D 3AH

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