A stool around the marble bar of this animated tapas joint is still one of Soho’s hottest seats due to the authentic menu, feel-good vibe and sheer spectacle – dishes are cooked before your eyes. Pick from assured versions of the tapas top ten – including tortilla, croquetas and pimientos de padrón – plus daily specials dominated by bracingly fresh market catches, then watch as a tight brigade of unflappable chefs delivers the goods. Despite the crowds waiting on your seat, rushing you through a meal is anathema here. Just as well, because it’s all too easy to keep ordering more, and the excellent by-the-glass wine list encourages experimentation. But be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait. There’s are equally brilliant branched on Adelaide Street, near Trafalgar Square, and on Drury Lane.Read more
Despite its odd location amid Acre Lane’s tyre workshops and charity shops, Boqueria has deservedly built up a devoted fan base spanning Clapham, Brixton and beyond. Its friendly, all-Spanish staff ferry spot-on tapas and raciónes to the chattering crowds in the light, modern dining room. Hits include saffron-tinged cod fritters, melt-in-the-mouth ham croquetas and jet-black rice with squid and mussels. The atmosphere is always high and the prices refreshingly low – just two of the many reasons Boqueria continues to ride the crest of the capital’s Spanish wave.Read more
This warm and inviting nook in the heart of Soho manages to be both authentically Spanish and admirably cliché-free (apart from the giant hams dangling from the ceiling). High communal tables, a clattering ambience and rapid-fire service make it a perfect post-work pit-stop – as does the exquisitely considered wine list, which offers nearly everything by the glass and carafe. The menu, inspired by the day’s market, mixes top-notch charcuterie with well-balanced dishes such as scallops pepped up with tomato relish and olive mayonnaise, or braised pig cheek with potato purée – all at restrained prices.Read more
The Salt Yard Group have produced some stunning but little-known restaurants such as Dehesa and Opera Tavern, going from strength to strength as they add new branches. Taking the Italian-Iberian small-plates ethos of Salt Yard, but with the cooking done over smoky coals, Ember Yard goes one better. The ground floor is a wine bar and restaurant with lots of warm woods; if you’re in the basement, try for the bar counter. Every tapas flavour combination is a winner; tender octopus coated in a peperonata sauce, say, or Ibérico pork ribs grilled to melting softness.Read more
Blending Moorish flavours from Spain, North Africa and the Middle East, Sam and Sam Clark’s restaurant has been a popular Exmouth Market eatery for over a decade now. Expect aromatic dishes jewelled with nuts, herbs and dried fruits, plus hearty peasant-style stews, spiced roasted meats and seafood. If they’re all booked up, pop in to their tapas offshoot – Morito – conveniently located next door.Read more
José Pizarro’s jovial tapas bar, José, has been rammed since it opened; this larger, smarter offering has proved a second Bermondsey Street hit for the chef and restaurateur. The dining room accommodates all occasions with its friendly, anything-goes feel and its mix of curved booths, communal tables and casual perches at the bar. Meanwhile the food – a mix of tapas, larger plates and daily specials, all inspired by that morning’s market trip – gives a modish slant to Spanish regional specialities, from fideuà (a Valencian paella made with vermicelli) to Segovian suckling pig or milk-fed leg of Castilian lamb. The wine list champions cava, so best find something to celebrate.Read more
Peter Gordon is the father of British fusion, and his charming split-level restaurant – a precursor to his Kopapa in Covent Garden – duly mixes a wine bar and small-plates outfit downstairs with a more formal dining room upstairs. The menus might read like a word-association exercise (are you ready for smoked Dutch eel, orange freekeh, capers, baba ganoush, sesame miso dressing, pomegranate and crispy buckwheat?), but the seemingly random ingredients in each dish – often with a Southeast Asian bias – confidently deliver a sucker punch of flavour. The cellar has an extensive list of New Zealand wines, with a tempting selection by the glass. It’s a perfect fit for this longstanding fusionistic enclave.Read more
Mas Q Menos Holborn
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A High Holborn tapas spot specialising in jamón ibérico de bellota - the high quality ham from acorn-fed pigs slobbing around the Iberian dehesas. Legs of the stuff are hanging around this chic-looking venue, offering a rustic contrast to the slightly industrial setting - the vents and ducts are positively exposed. In addition to the jamon housed in sandwiches and salads and plated on platters, expect an array of Spanish produce ranging from smoked cod with tomato jam and olive pâté to gazpacho, tuna belly with tomatoes and spring onion, and Spanish flatbread topped with truffled brie. Imported tinned items feature too, such as Galician style zamburiñas and razor clams in brine. There's a Spanish slant to the drinks too, with aperitifs, cocktails and Spanish beers alongside wines selected from regions across Spain.