The team behind this venue hope to bring ‘the best of Barcelona and Brooklyn to Crouch End’. They and their bright staff certainly do well at creating a cosy, laid-back, enjoy-yourself buzz. An old test-your-strength machine is only the best of the eclectic and slightly cranky accoutrements that combine with vaguely distressed decor at this imaginative tapas bar.
As chef they’ve recruited Pablo Rodríguez López, formerly of Barrafina and Morito. Lately, some London tapas bars have been showing culinary inventiveness; so far, Bar Esteban isn’t so much creative as focused on pure, contrasting, pick-me-up flavours based on top-quality fresh ingredients.
We were won over straight away by the superbly authentic, punchy and fresh alioli (garlic mayonnaise) that came with our bread. The pleasure continued with subtly seasoned grilled mussels, crisp and creamy serrano ham croquettes, vibrantly delicious coca de escalivada (flat bread topped with roast peppers, onion and aubergines), and rabo de toro (slow-braised oxtail) with a richly textured flavour that really showed the worth of painstaking, skilful preparation.
The wine list has some fairly unusual, non-standard Spanish labels from a wide variety of regions, and for drinkers, there’s no obligation to have a fixed number of tapas dishes. Bar Esteban is a great asset to Crouch End.