El Pirata of Mayfair - Is this London's best Tapas Restaurant?
Spanish Tapas at El Pirata, Mayfair - Restaurant Review
El Pirata - Restaurant Review
Cuisine: Spanish Tapas
Style Points: 3.5/5
I love Spanish tapas but I’m still scarred from my experience in a small restaurant in Valencia a couple of years ago where the tapas didn’t live up to my expectations. So when I was invited to try a variety of tapas at El Pirata of Mayfair, I didn’t get my hopes up in case I was to be let down again.
I must admit I hadn’t heard of El Pirata before but I soon learnt that it has been a Mayfair institution since 1994. 25 years in such a competitive area of London is no small feat and it can’t be luck that they are still open today.
I was also surprised to know that is has been named by Fred Sirieix, the Maitre’d from Channel 4’s First Dates as one of his favourite romantic restaurants in London. My expectations immediately shot up after hearing this!
As soon as you walk in the low ceiling and white painted walls covered with Spanish art and small tables and chairs make you feel as if you are dining in a small eatery down a small side street somewhere in Spain. For 6pm, the restaurant was busy, filled with tourists from the surrounding hotels along with local businessmen and regulars who have been coming since the early years.
We started our evening with some small bites or entrantes recommended by our server who had been with the restaurant for five years, the ‘newest’ member of staff.
We had the garlic toasted bread topped with fresh tomato, olive and garlic, padron peppers from galicia, and a selection of ibérico ham. I absolutely love padron peppers so there were a hit with me especially when seasoned with good quality sea salt to really bring out the flavour of the peppers.
I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of charcuterie and eating cured meat on its own BUT I’ve come to realise that the quality of the meat makes all the difference. This acron-fed ibérico ham was melt-in-the-mouth delicious and I could see why it was described as ‘Spain’s national treasure’ on the menu. If I had to be picky, I would say that some croutons wouldn’t have gone amiss, but still, a great start to the meal.
We moved onto some small plates and chose the fritos de rape - deep-fried medallions of monkfish with tartar dip, pulpo a la gallega - octopus and potatoes brushed with olive oil and paprika , pinchos morunos con chorizo - marinated chicken skewers with chorizo.
I highly recommend the monkfish, crunchy little morsels of fish deep fried in batter and dipped in a lovely tangy tartar sauce. I hate to use Mcdonald’s as an analogy but it can only be described as a high-end version of a fish-o-fillet, which I hate to admit is a guilty pleasure of mine..!
The octopus is also very nice with the potatoes and works perfectly with smoky paprika. I asked one of the waiters what his favourite dish was and without a moment's hesitation he said the chicken skewers and I could definitely see why. The chicken was cooked to perfection and a match made in heaven with the flavoursome chorizo and chargrilled peppers.
Next up we had the arroz con pollo - spanish rice with chicken, chorizo al vino - spanish sausage in a red wine sauce, patatas bravas - deep-fried potatoes in chilli and garlic sauce, champiñones al ajillo - mushrooms in garlic.
All the dishes were tasty but the spanish rice was packed with a cacophony of flavour and a standout dish along with the patatas bravas coated in a divine spicy peri peri-esque sauce.
To finish our splendid meal, we chose the sacher de chocolate c/helado - homemade chocolate cake, with vanilla ice cream and tarta santiago traditional galician cake made with almonds, served with vanilla ice cream.
Both desserts looked beautiful and the portions were large and plentiful. The homemade chocolate cake was rich and chocolately but not overly sweet and the sponge itself was airy and moist. The traditional galician cake was essentially an almond tart and was full of the taste of marzipan and not too dense.
Little Bites cost around £5 and the tapas dishes are priced reasonably between £7-9 on average. They also an ‘Introduction to Tapas’ platter which offers an array of sharing plates priced at £25 per person (minimum of 2 people sharing.)
Overall, El Pirata was the perfect remedy to heal my wounds from my experience in Valencia. If you are looking for an authentic taste of Spanish tapas you won’t be disappointed with the vast array of dishes they have to offer and the great selection of wine and Spanish brandy.
It’s easy to see how the restaurant has managed to stay afloat for 25 years and I look forward to reviewing it throughout the next 25 years.
See the full menu on El Pirata’s website
Address: 5-6 Down St, Mayfair, London W1J 7AQ
Closest tube station: Green Park
Special thanks to El Pirata for their hospitality!
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