London's best restaurants for tapas
The queues are endless and fans clamour for perches at the L-shaped marble counter, but patience is amply rewarded at this no-bookings tapas star – flawless cooking is a given here. Your money might go further in Spain, but who cares when the quality’s this good. Also at Dean Street and Drury Lane.
Named after Barcelona’s famous food market, this Brixton blockbuster combines traditional and contemporary tapas to fine effect in stylish surrounds. Expect flamenco on the sound system, knowledgeable staff in full cry, and a roll call of real-deal Iberian ingredients given pin-sharp treatment. Sibling Boqueria Market is in Battersea.
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 El Bulli homage to tortilla served in a martini glass. Rafael Nadal is a fan, so they say.
A stalwart of Soho’s tapas scene, Jake Hodges’ singular haunt is no fashion leader, but it’s light, modern and good-natured, with more than a touch of enterprise and elan on the food front. We’d gladly return for the unusual by-the-glass sherries and the heavenly salt cod (if it’s on).
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.
Escape Carnaby’s touristy throngs at this bubbly bijou rendezvous from the Salt Yard group, where most punters sit elbow-to elbow 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.
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 pintxos skewers to veal fillet with ratte potatoes.
Out 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. Their Ibérico pork ribs and chargrilled octopus with paprika aïoli are standouts from a varied line-up of Spanish/Italian hits.
Venue says Our £38 Sunday feast with seasonal menu, bottomless prosecco and live music is the only homework you need to do for Monday. Booking advised.
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.
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.
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 (curried monkfish with almonds and fennel rice, say).
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.
Tapas fans prepare to cheer loudly. After years as executive chef at Barrafina, all-round genia Nieves Barragán Mohacho has opened her first solo gaff – a highly distinctive set-up spread over two floors (small-plate counter fun downstairs, regional wood-fired feasting upstairs). The food’s all-round flawless, especially the plumped-up, just-runny salt-cod tortilla – sheer eggy bliss.
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, with matching wines and sherries to boot. Its cheese-stuffed courgette flowers are the… er… stuff of legend.
Venue says It’s been a mad old week with Salt Yard’s makeover, but it hasn’t stopped us cranking out the new dishes.
The original no-bookings tapas bar from the kings of imported Spanish provisions, Brindisa’s Borough Market canteen blends superb ingredients with impressively refined cooking. Just add an easy-going vibe, reasonable prices and sophisticated Iberian wines. Note: Brindisa’s branches in Shoreditch, Broadwick Street and Rupert Street all take bookings.
Westfield shoppers are lucky to have this honest-to-goodness tapas bar as a stop-gap and refuelling point – especially as it delivers great value across the board. No surprises or molecular fantasies here, just down-home croquetas, acorn-fed hams and delectable churros to finish.