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Barrafina

London’s best tapas restaurants

Featuring trad tortillas and perfect Padrón peppers, these bars and restaurants are serving up some of the best tapas in London

Edited by
Leonie Cooper
Written by
Time Out London Food & Drink
&
Sarah Cohen
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London is packed full of small plates restaurants, but before the trend infiltrated every kind of cuisine, there was tapas. The Spanish pioneered meals that involve sharing dishes of meat, seafood and veg that are small in size but, when done well, totally enormous in flavour. Whether you’re after reliable staples like tortilla and patatas bravas or you want to get adventurous with octopus, there’s a place on our list of London’s best tapas restaurants for you. Share nicely, now.

RECOMMENDED: London’s best Spanish restaurants

London's best restaurants for tapas

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Bermondsey

Blink and you could be in Barcelona, although this dinky tapas joint from high-rolling José Pizzaro belongs in Bermondsey. As a no-bookings, doors-wide-open kind of place, it’s a prime local asset renowned for its fantastically fresh renderings of the tapas classics. There's a daily changing blackboard menu, on which tortilla, croquetas and Padrón peppers have their moment, but also look for pork cheeks with sweet potato or fried goat’s cheese and honey, plus rosemary cheesecake to finish.  

Barrafina
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • King’s Cross
  • price 3 of 4

Known for dishing up premium tapas in glam surroundings, Barrafina's branch at handsome King’s Cross development Coal Drops Yard, has the same signature marble counter (plus a sprinkling of group and alfresco seats), bustling atmosphere and full-flavoured food. Your money might go further in Spain, but who cares when the quality’s this good? Barrafina’s other branches include one in Soho and two outlets in Covent Garden and their latest outpost in Borough Yards. 

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The Counter at Sabor
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Regent Street
  • price 2 of 4

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 line-up of rustic small plates is all-round flawless; from a stunning tortilla made with txistorra sausage to goat cheese ice cream with liquorice sause. You’ll love the cooking but you’ll also love the vibe – eating here is just hugely fun.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho

The mighty tapas staple of croquetas now has a whole restaurant dedicated to it thanks to Spanish food folk Brindisa. An intimate northern-Spanish bar and miniature dining room on Beak Street, Bar Kroketa is rustic and informal, perfect for a quick bite or a more leisurely glass of Cava Brut Reserva after a long day of trawling around Soho. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Stoke Newington
  • price 2 of 4

Escocesa is Spanish for Scottish, and that’s a clue to the food at this sleek Stokey tapas joint founded by occasional 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, but there are also plenty of land-based faves – think jamón tortilla, patatas bravas or slow-cooked pig’s cheeks with caramelised onions.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • King’s Cross
  • price 3 of 4

Alfresco Parrillan is all about DIY tabletop grilling combined with some of the best outdoor seating in Coal Drops Yard. Kick off with some cold no-cook starters before getting to grips with the grilled stuff – all based on flawless ingredients ranging from a fabulously seafood selection to chicken oysters, tuna and lamb. If DIY isn’t your bag, you can always nip off to Barrafina next door. There's another outpost down in Borough Yards, too. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • South Kensington

Playful inventiveness never gets in the way of flavour at this high-end flagship of a local Spanish mini-chain, which offers new-wave takes on the classics and some serious innovation – check out the crispy salmon nigiri-croqueta, the rock oysters with green gazpacho or the El Bulli homage to tortilla served in a martini glass. Rafael Nadal is a fan, so they say.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Copita neatly sidesteps the usual tapas clichés in favour of less familiar ideas served in proper portions (smoked anchovies with pork crackling, anyone?). Such accomplished food draws big crowds, and it can get cacophonous – although service is always in tune with the vibe.

 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

A Soho sister site to Stoke Newington’s Escocesa, here high stools run along the windows: perfect for watching Soho’s beautiful oddballs go by, as well as next to the kitchen; perfect for watching chefs prepare intricate bocadillo de calamar. Enjoy courgette flowers stuffed with goat cheese, charcoal leeks with romesco and glossy, thick-cut pan con tomate as well as potent cocktails and hearty puds.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

Escape Carnaby’s touristy throngs at this bubbly bijou rendezvous from the Salt Yard group, where most punters sit at long communal tables. Everyone’s here for the top-ranking hybrid Spanish-Italian tapas – although Iberian wines and sociable staff also ensure an upbeat, uptown feel.

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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Marylebone

Donostia is the Basque name for the gastronomic hotbed 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 crab and caviar pintxos to monkfish with arroz negro (black rice).

Ember Yard
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho

Another one of the Salt Yard stable, Ember Yard’s USP is its stylish use of the grill – echoing the way things are done in the Basque country. Its crispy pork belly and chargrilled octopus with paprika aïoli are standouts from a varied line-up of Spanish and Italian hits that runs from grilled chicken thighs to jamon, leek and manchego croquetas. 

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Ibérica Marylebone
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Great Portland Street

Standing proud like some Andalusian mansion in Marylebone, this smart branch of the Ibérica chain dishes up a wide-ranging menu covering everything from charcuterie and cheeses to small plates and hot stews. Also check out the deli next door. Offshoots in Farringdon, Canary Wharf and Victoria.

Little Tapería
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Tooting

La Tapería deals in homespun charm: 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 such as piquillo peppers stuffed with truffled beef, morcilla scotch eggs or Valencian orange and manchego cheesecake.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

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 pleases fans of garlic prawns, patatas bravas and classic tortilla. 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.

Lurra
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Marylebone
  • price 2 of 4

There’s 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • 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.

Tendido Cero
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • South Kensington

Less fancy that its cousin Cambio de Tercio, Tendido Cero’s chilled-out vibe is much favoured by South Ken’s tapas-scoffing hordes. Tortillas and padrón peppers keep it traditional, but also expect the odd new-wave combo to go with an epic list of Spanish wines and sherries.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Marylebone
  • price 3 of 4

True to its name, Twist’s modern take on tapas will certainly cause some heads to turn. Expect the likes of 24-month cured nebrodi jamon, Japanese scallops with red prawns, and spiced ’nduja fritters served with smoked cheese. The ambience is equally terrific: all rustic good looks and lively chatter. Twist may not be all that easy on the purse strings, but it’s absolutely worth it.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Goodge Street

The forefather of a pioneering group famous for its hybrid Spanish and Italian tapas, this smartly informal Fitzrovia favourite seamlessly combines two gastro-cultures under one roof – although the buzziest vibe is in the bustling low-lit bar rather than the basement dining room. Food-wise, there’s plenty to enjoy, especially if you stick to the classics: the blistered Padrón peppers or the Ibérico jamón and manchego croquetas. Other items quickly swerve from olé to merely OK.

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