Do not ask if Soho needs another counter tapas spot with an open kitchen and bar seating, and instead ask why you would refuse another opportunity to knock back oily little boquerones with a side of sherry in London’s joyful heartland. Maresco is the newest resident of 45 Berwick Street’s prime corner site, previously home to tea house Yumchaa. It’s also the latest offering from genial Scotsman Stephen Lironi, 1980s popstar (Lironi and his wife Clare Grogan remain members of cult new wave band Altered Images) and music producer, who heads up a coterie of Spanish-inspired seafood restaurants which pride themselves on using only fish from Lironi’s homeland. Maresco is the third, and his debut central London spot following Crouch End’s Bar Esteban and Stoke Newington’s Escocesa. The latter is much-loved amongst NTS-mainlining jazz-heads not just for crisp fried aubergine drizzled in honey, but a massive neon ‘Dream Baby Dream’ sign, perfect for paying tribute to noise-fuzz legends Suicide’s greatest song while swilling manzanilla.
Maresco has all the hallmarks of a new Soho staple
Maresco boasts a similar aesthetic to its N16 sister site. It’s not particularly fancy, but it’s welcoming. Strings of fairy lights twinkle by the trademark blue neon signage and 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. Here, the sandwich-like tapas classic is given a ’grammable sheen thanks to squid ink that renders the bread coal black, before it’s stuffed with a thick layer of potent garlicky aioli and a slightly sinister, crispy tentacle is balanced on the top. It came from a short, punchy menu. Dishes from Esteban and Escocesa, such as courgette flowers stuffed with goat cheese, charcoal leeks with romesco and glossy, thick-cut pan con tomate, make appearances, but Maresco also has its own thing going on. A highlight was a funky little bomba maresco, crisp on the outside and packed inside with mussels and creamy potato.
When I visited, the regularly rotating specials menu included a hefty and hearty version of the Valencian and Catalan dish arròs negro. Topped with firm, meaty Gigha halibut, the gothic tray of black rice was earthy and pleasantly dank, with springy cuttlefish tentacles in every forkful. If that’s all a bit too folk-horror for you, a bowl of gentler salmon tartare came atop waves of creamy almond ajo blanco, which was so addictive I scooped every last drop out with a spoon. Better still was the creamy Basque cheesecake and bread pudding, crunchy with sugar and cinnamon, like a giant churro.
Maresco has all the hallmarks of a new Soho staple.
The vibe Counter seating and creative tapas in the very heart of Soho.
The food Spanish flavours. Scottish seafood. Great puds.
The drinks Plenty of it. Pisco Sours, Spanish wine and so much sherry.
Time Out tip Save space for the Basque cheesecake.