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Bilbao Berria (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Spanish St James’s

Time Out says

Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that venues remain open.

Please note, Bilbao Berria has now closed. Time Out Food editors, MARCH 2020.

A Barcelona-based restaurant with a Tasmanian chef and Basque name sounds about as likely a hit as the Gipsy Kings, but that’s what we now have a few strums from Piccadilly Circus. Australian-born Ash Mair won BBC2’s ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ in 2011, then went on to work with the restaurant Bilbao Berria in Barcelona and write a well-regarded cookbook, ‘My Basque Cuisine’. Now, he’s heading up Bilbao Berria’s London flagship.

The buzzing ground-floor wine bar displays beautiful legs of jamón, and counters of pintxos – Basque-style bread-based tapas – for diners to choose from. Lovers of Spanish wines will find stylish by-the-glass offerings. The basement dining room’s perfect for eye-balling top-notch Spanish wines as there’s a wall lined with them (pictured above); or you can watch the chefs, as the kitchen is open to the sleek and dark dining room.

But first impressions can be deceiving. Despite Mair’s Basque leanings, the menu is mostly Spanish tapas hits: tortilla, croquetas, patatas bravas, russian salad and the like, plus good cheeses and charcuterie. Lush-sounding bacalao tortilla, our waitress assured us, would be served properly runny inside, but we expected the outside to be structurally sound. What arrived looked more like the result of the ‘fastest omelette’ challenge from ‘Saturday Kitchen’. And the enticing-sounding descriptions of other dishes didn’t live up to the reality: romesco sauce with grilled white and green asparagus lacked the necessary va-va-voom, while fried squid with ‘guindilla alioli’  – was served with what tasted like an unspiked, chilli-less mayo.

Only once did we see what the kitchen is capable of. Slow-cooked pork belly was meltingly tender, the intense savouriness picked up by a sweet quince sauce and underscored by smoky-flavoured mash. Mair and his team are trying to showcase the greatest Spanish hits, but just one ‘Bamboléo’ isn’t enough to make this international partnership a smash hit.

Bilbao Berria says
Recent winner of the 'Best Spanish Restaurant of the Year' by the Latin UK Awards, this is in part for the kitchen's outstanding selection of pintxos and its unique fusion of Basque and Catalan flavours.



Address: 2 Regent Street, St James's
Transport: Tube: Charing Cross or Piccadilly Circus
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