Suited types flock to this Mayfair tapas bar, which does a recession-friendly £10.25 set lunch deal that includes a glass of wine. The menu is solidly macho with the odd rogue element (couscous, pancetta, risotto). Service from our Burgos-born waitress was cheerful and sweet-natured.
Lunch is aimed at the time-poor. Dishes arrived with almost indecent haste, crowding the tiny table. The tortilla is among the best in London, and we liked the rich chorizo-laced lentil stew. But fried chicken with garlic and parsley didn’t pack the promised punch, and a fresh, if inauthentic, tricolore salad was unseasoned and let down by poor-quality mozzarella. Dull sliced bread struck another low note, as did the whiffy basement toilets.
Coffees, a shared plate of top-notch Spanish cheeses with quince (we couldn’t face the fried bananas) and two extra glasses of vino blanco brought the bill to £45 for two. El Pirata’s old-school cooking could do with more brio and consistency, but the friendly prices, informal ambience and attractive setting – a chocolate-toned room enlivened with Miró prints – made us inclined to linger.
Eat at the outside tables in summer or sit at the restaurant’s snazzy bar, but avoid the gloomy basement.