London's best restaurants for tapas
Known for dishing up premium tapas in glam surroundings, the Barrafina group have nailed it again. This latest branch, at handsome new King’s Cross development Coal Drops Yard, has the same signature marble counter (plus a sprinkling of group and alfresco seats), bustling atmos and full-flavoured food. Your money might go further in Spain, but who cares when the quality’s this good. Also at Soho and Covent Garden.
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 skrei cod with arroz negro (black rice).
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.
The second restaurant by ex-record producer Stephen Lironi, this sleek tapas bar in Stoke Newington oozes quirky ’50s cool. Bar stools fringing an open kitchen means that diners can get an eyeful of the chefs at work whilst tucking into tapas classics. Some are fashioned from fine Scottish seafood – grilled octopus, marinated anchovies, fried baby squid – but there are plenty of land-based faves, too (tortilla, patatas bravas, croquetas). It’s a hit.
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, like baby squid stuffed with Spanish black pudding, say.
Card-carrying carnivore? You’re in the right place. Lobos – which means ‘wolves’ in Spanish – specialises in prime Iberico cuts and smoky plates of meat that’ll make you forget about vegetables altogether. A moodily lit, buzzy affair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a warmer welcome than at this Frith Street spin-off of the Borough original.
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.
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, but save space for dessert: the boozy rhubarb and mascarpone tartaleta is just dreamy.
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.
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