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London’s best Spanish restaurants

Explore these stylish Spanish tapas bars in London that capture the flavours of the sun

By Time Out London Food & Drink |
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GREG FUNNELL

OCTOBER 2019: We’ve added alfresco Parrillan in Coal Drops Yard (the latest outing from the star-spangled Harts group), plus El Asador and The Counter at Sabor (Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s Michelin-starred Mayfair hotspot), along with three favourites that still deserve a shout: meat-loving Lobos Soho, Basque champion Donostia in Marylebone and Waterloo tapas veteran Mar i Terra.

Searching for some enticing Spanish restaurants in London? From tapas to more traditional regional dishes, here are the best restaurants in London offering authentic cuisine from the Iberian Peninsula. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

The best Spanish restaurants in London

Restaurants, Spanish

Aqua Nueva

Soho

It’s worth bookmarking this swanky Spanish joint for the summer months, when you can take advantage of its rooftop terrace – you’ll think you’re in Andalucía, not Argyll Street as your tuck into Saturday brunch with ‘free flowing’ drinks. At other times, Aqua Neuva serves punchy but beautiful-looking dishes to beautiful people who are happy to pay top dollar for pleasurable plates, along the lines of black seafood croquetas or grilled Ibérico pork presa.

Restaurants, Spanish

Barrafina

Covent Garden

The queues are endless and fans clamour for somewhere to perch at Barrafina’s gleaming L-shaped marble counter, but patience is amply rewarded at this no-bookings tapas star – flawless cooking is a given. Your money might go further in Spain, but who cares when the chefs can dole out dazzlers such as oozing tortillas and milk-fed lamb sweetbreads to go with picks from a knockout Spanish wine list. Also check out Barrafina’s branches at Dean Street, Drury Lane and King’s Cross.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Barrica

Goodge Street

For years, this elder sibling of Soho’s Copita has been offering fans a proper taste of laid-back Spain with smart decor to match. Oak furniture, chequerboard floor tiles and sunny yellow walls set the scene for some impressively consistent tapas – not only Padrón peppers and croquetas, but also ambitious ideas along the lines of chargrilled chorizo with piquillo sauce and saffron-pickled cabbage. There’s also a serious list of wines and sherries by the glass. And you can book ahead.

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© Britta Jaschinski / Time Out
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Camino King's Cross

King’s Cross

Tucked away in the Regent Quarter, this branch of Spanish mini-chain Camino gives King’s Cross punters exactly what they need on a lively night out: a courtyard for social smokers, Latino-inspired DJs, table football, cocktails, and a tapas menu designed for sharing. Expect charcuterie, cheese and assorted plates including, perhaps, Andalusian chicken skewers with mojo picón or octopus with chickpea and beetroot purée. Meanwhile, brunch is a tempting offer for the weekenders. Also find Camino in Bankside, Monument and Shoreditch.

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© Helen Cathcart
Restaurants, Spanish

Copita

Soho

Like its sibling Barrica in Fitzrovia, Copita deals in proper tapas-sized dishes and neatly sidesteps the usual clichés in favour of less familiar ideas – smoked anchovies with pork crackling or courgette tortilla with piquillo sauce, anyone? Drinkers are also encouraged to have several small glasses (copitas) from a well-informed list of Spanish wines and sherries. Such an accomplished offer draws big crowds, and it can get cacophonous – although service is always in tune with the vibe.

Restaurants, Spanish

The Counter at Sabor

Mayfair

Tapas fans, prepare to cheer loudly. Sabor (the first solo gaff from Barrafina’s one-time leading lady Nieves Barragán Mohacho) is an absolute blast – especially if you bag a spot at the no-bookings ground floor Counter (the bookable El Asador lives upstairs). The line-up of rustic small plates is all-round flawless, from stunning tortilla made with salt cod to an utterly dreamy rhubarb and mascarpone tartaleta. You’ll love the cooking, but you’ll also love the vibe – eating here is just such huge fun.

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© Ming Tang-Evans
Restaurants, Spanish

Donostia

Marylebone

Donostia is the Basque name for the gastronomic city of San Sebastián, and this minimalist tapas joint rightly basks in the reflected glory of its namesake. Understated flavour revelations are the order of the day – from salt cod fritters with parsley aïoli to oxtail with rice and confit artichokes. To drink, try a bottle of Rioja from the biodynamic collection or a glass of Basque natural cider, poured spectacularly from a height to aerate it.

Restaurants, Spanish

El Asador at Sabor

Mayfair

Eat like a Spanish family on the first floor of queen bee Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s solo gaff – and, yes, you can book a communal table up here. The downstairs Counter may be all about small-plate grazing, but wood-fired feasting is the name of the game in El Asador’s convivial dining room, with centrepieces such as Segovian suckling pig, Galician txuléton (rib of beef) and cuts of Iberian lamb. Other specialities are cooked in traditional Galician copper pans. The food’s all-round flawless and the Tempranillo flows freely.

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Restaurants, Spanish

El Ganso

Hackney

With its exposed brickwork, Moorish tiling and a healthy smattering of Spanish-speaking customers, El Ganso (‘the goose’) feels like the real deal – only transported to Broadway Market. The chef hails from Valencia, although he gives traditional tapas a contemporary spin when it comes to presentation: fried octopus might come with smoked paprika, chimichurri and purple potato purée, while chopped pears add a surprise to spicy chorizo in cider. El Ganso also serves an Anglo-Spanish breakfast every day.

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Celia Topping
Restaurants, Spanish

El Pirata

Mayfair

Tucked away just off the leafy streets of Green Park, this neat little tapas bar is a perennial favourite with the local Spanish community and Mayfair suits who flock here for a taste of its jamón Ibérico and other old school classics (think tortilla, croquetas, albondigas and so on). The kitchen also knocks out big pans of paella and arroz negro for sharing, along with decent value set menus. Tip: the best seats are at the snazzy bar surrounded by mirrors and Picasso prints – or you can grab a table outside in summer.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Ember Yard

Soho

Out of the Salt Yard Group stable, Ember Yard’s USP is its stylish use of the grill – echoing the way things are done in the Basque country. The Ibérico pork ribs and chargrilled octopus with paprika aïoli are standouts from a line-up of Spanish-Italian hits that might run from marinated chicken thighs with celeriac, dates and truffle mascarpone to spice-roasted cauliflower with pistachio purée. Pick Ember Yard for a winter retreat in the darkness and enjoy the glowing embers of its charcoal grill.

Restaurants, Spanish

Enrique Tomas

Soho

This no-frills Soho jamonería is just big enough for a slicing counter, display cabinets and simple seating. Discover the best Spanish jamón ibérico here, which has been air-dried for up to three years. Splash some cash for the finest 'ibérico de bellota' - free-range pata negra (black foot) wild pigs that feed mostly on acorns. A sandwich may not be a massive meal, but you won’t mind when you taste that sweet, nutty, buttery ham. 

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Restaurants, Spanish

Escocesa

Stoke Newington

Escocesa is Spanish for Scottish, and that’s a clue to the food at this sleek Stokey tapas joint founded by ex-drummer and record producer Stephen Lironi. The kitchen plunders the best from Caledonia’s waters for a roster of seafood plates, such as grilled octopus with white bean purée and crispy capers, although there are also plenty of land-based faves – think jamón tortilla, patatas bravas or slow-cooked pig’s cheeks with caramelised onions.

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Tricia de Courcy Ling
Restaurants, Spanish

José

Bermondsey

Spawned from José Pizzaro’s namesake restaurant further along Bermondsey Street, this tapas bebé has the genuine feel of a rustic Spanish hangout – all plain brick walls, timbers, tiles and stools. There are no great culinary innovations; instead, enjoy fantastically fresh renditions of the classics at easy-to-swallow prices, coupled with fine-quality wines by the glass. You can’t book, but José’s doors-wide-open attitude is bang-on for the neighbourhood.

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Restaurants, Spanish

The Little Taperia

Tooting

La Tapería’s charm is more homespun than Tooting’s bigger operators: a bar dispenses decent cocktails, but sit near the open kitchen for a glimpse of the chefs working on cool, artistic renditions of the tapas standards and more outré ideas including piquillo peppers stuffed with truffled beef, morcilla scotch eggs or orange and manchego cheesecake.

Restaurants, Spanish

Lobos Soho

Soho

Card-carrying carnivore? You’re in the right place. Lobos (‘wolves’ in Spanish) specialises in prime Ibérico cuts, charcuterie and plates of smoky charred meat - although its tapas also please fans of prawns al ajillo, patatas bravas and classic tortillas. This Soho sibling of the original Lobos Meat & Tapas on Borough High Street is a moodily lit, buzzy affair – and it comes with the warmest of welcomes.

Venue says A meat and tapas menu curated with the carnivore in mind. Excellent service to boot and a good measure of rock ‘n’ roll.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Lurra

Marylebone

A tiny Basque enclave in Marylebone, Lurra is the baby sister of Donostia just down the road. Lap up the buzzy atmosphere and smoky aromas as you pick from a menu of rustic-luxe tapas and pintxos inspired by the bars of San Sebastián. Don’t miss daily specials such as spinach croqueta with spring onion aïoli. Just remember to bring your credit card – prices are top end, but the quality is high, too.

Restaurants, Spanish

Mar i Terra

Southwark

Sandwiched between the railway arches near Waterloo station, this long-serving and totally unpretentious tapas joint inhabits the shell of an old boozer – and it still feels like a friendly local rather than a hipster hangout. Much of the wide-ranging menu is gluten-free and all the tapas standards are capably handled, from finger-sized boquerones, moist tortilla and juicy grilled chorizo to saffron rice packed with shrimps, squid and octopus. A true hidden gem.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Morito

Clerkenwell

Bang next door to its acclaimed big brother Moro, the teensy-weensy orange-toned Morito is a slice of Spanish street life teleported to Clerkenwell. It’s always frantically busy, but perseverance pays dividends – especially if you bag a spot overlooking the kitchen counter. Inventive tapas plates and stonking Spanish regional wines are the stars, but staff are delightful and the whole place is properly buzzy. Morito’s flashy Hackney Road offshoot is a very different kettle of salt cod.

Restaurants, Italian

Opera Tavern

Covent Garden

A fixture of Covent Garden’s pre-theatre scene, this buzzy low-lit tapas joint from the Salt Yard group has a perma-vibey, print-festooned bar, if you fancy knocking back a few sherries with a plate of croquetas before the show. Otherwise, head upstairs to the cosy yet glamorous restaurant for a trademark mix of Spanish and Italian small plates, such as chorizo picante with smoked almond hummus. Highly affable service is a big bonus hereabouts.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Parrillan

King’s Cross

The latest offering from the star-spangled Harts group, alfresco Parrillan is all about DIY tabletop grilling combined with some of the best outdoor seating in Coal Drops Yard. Start off with some cold no-cook starters before getting to grips with the grilled stuff – it’s all based on flawless ingredients ranging from the fabulously fresh (but seriously pricey) red prawns to more affordable Middle White pork collar. If DIY isn’t your bag, you can always nip off to Barrafina next door.

Restaurants, Spanish

Pizarro

Bermondsey

Smarter and roomier than his tapas bar (José) up the road, José Pizarro’s self-named Bermondsey flagship artfully combines old Spanish detailing with a stripped-back new- neighbourhood look. Pizzaro is a master when it comes to revitalising traditional flavours and he cooks with immense care and skill: spicy prawn fritters, cuttlefish a la plancha and Castilian leg of suckling lamb are typical of the regularly changing line-up. Well-chosen wines fuel the congenial buzz.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Trangallan

Newington Green

Given a makeover by four Stokey residents, this one-time social club just off Newington Green is now a boho ‘gastro-cultural’ hybrid with a Spanish tapas restaurant and wine shop on the ground floor and a private room/performance space in the tiny basement. It’s still something to cheer about, so celebrate with some para picar, artisan charcuterie and modish small plates along the lines of cured mackerel with golden beetroot, lovage and agraz. Trangallán is also a good shout come aperitivo hour.

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