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Bilbao Berria (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Spanish St James’s
4 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
Bilbao Berria

Time Out says

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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Users say (4)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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Real jamon iberico "pata negra" cut the Spanish way by professionals. Fantastic paella. A gem of a northern Spanish restaurant in central London. Basque, Catalan and Spanish cuisine at its best in London. Check the wine too.

I love how central this location is but that it is so neatly tucked away from the craziness of Covent Garden, and when you walk in, the decor is a completely unexpected, and what a treat! The food was delightful and the service with a smile, what more could you ask for. Be sure to go to the toilet during your visit, if anything just to ensure that you take in the whole venue and all that it has to offer.

Real jamon iberico "pata negra" cut the Spanish way by professionals. Fantastic paella. A gem of a northern Spanish restaurant in central London. Basque, Catalan and Spanish cuisine at its best in London. Check the wine too.

In a good location, close to but out of the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus, this is a fantastic looking restaurant with a bright, vibrant upper level and a more subdued lower main restaurant. On entering, your senses are engaged with the fabulous decor, the open bar and serving area and the visual excitement of charcuterie being cut and tapas lined up for serving. The staff are welcoming and friendly, albeit they do tend to possess that Mediterranean trait of being able to avoid eye contact or display an uncanny sixth sense when trying to attract their attention and scurrying off in the opposite direction.

The food was well prepared and presented with good flavours and textures but, despite some careful selections, they generally lacked robustness and were surprisingly bland. The notable exception to this was the braised beef cheek, which was dark, rich and delicious. Unfortunately, they neglected to deliver one of our orders to the table - something I've only just realised in writing this review! - and I failed to check to see whether we were charged for it. Nevertheless, the meal was still quite expensive - £120 for two including wine and service - for what was essentially up market tapas.

Bilbao Berria is a fantastic looking restaurant with superb decor and lively staff but, overall, they failed to deliver an experience that lived up to the billing - certainly in terms of value for money. The promise is there, they now just need to translate this into a dining experience that will make the customer want to come back for more.

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