Please note, Mesón Bilbao is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink Editors.
Set in an awkward location midway between Kilburn and Maida Vale, Mesón Bilbao can be disconcertingly quiet of an evening – though its old-fashioned, candlelit dining room with tables squeezed around the bar is cosy enough to make solitary diners feel at ease. True to the restaurant’s Basque name, its menu is particularly strong on seafood. Couples can share merluza (hake) for two instead of the ubiquitous paella, while the tapas list includes eels and an outstanding rendition of chipirones en su tinta (squid in its own ink), with tender chunks of squid half-submerged in rich, velvet-black ink and onion sauce. Sadly, the other tapas we sampled failed to live up to the squid’s dark splendour: patatas bravas, made with boiled rather than fried potatoes, were lacklustre; chorizo busturia (juicy, generous slices of chorizo sandwiched between thin slices of fried aubergine) was slightly burnt. Still, unobtrusive but friendly service and a modestly priced wine list compensate for the odd lapse. The two-course set menu offers superb value for money; you can dine on jamón serrano then sea bream for a mere £12.95, with a coffee thrown in for good measure.