115 Westbourne Grove,
(020) 7727 5000
The ViewLondon Review
This well regarded sibling of Mayfair's El Pirata keeps pulling in the punters, with a combination of excellent food and very impressive prices keeping the talented hands in the kitchen very busy indeed.
Ever since Gordon Ramsay declared this place his favourite Spanish restaurant in London, El Pirata Detapas has been tasked with keeping up the good work - something it seems to be doing with aplomb. Its location certainly helps, with a good spot on an attractive part of Westbourne Grove, surrounded by des-res housing and boujis shops. Accolades, reviews and menus line an edge of the glass frontage, enticing passersby into an attractive little restaurant that stretches to a small bar at the back via rows of comfortable seating, a couple of round tables and a pretty gleeful crowd. The décor is in keeping with the kitchen's modern take on Spanish food, so although there are hints of the homeland (jamón waiting to be carved, stacked wine bottles, a smattering of traditional art), this is somewhere that’s sleek, slick and good looking - a world away from anywhere even approaching cliché.
The sheer fact that this place is so busy (especially later in the evening) makes for the kind of bustling and busy atmosphere you’ll encounter in Spain itself. The authentic accents of the staff certainly help - almost, in fact, as much as their very helpful geniality, which goes down a storm with the regulars, whilst also making those from further afield very welcome indeed. Tables are relatively close together but that only adds to the fun – highfalutin fine dining this is not, thankfully.
The staff may be lovely and the restaurant a pleasant place in which to eat, but it’s the exquisite modern Spanish food that’s the main draw here, and quite right too. There are traditional tapas options, so if you want to head down for some charcuterie, some padron peppers and (very good) boquerones, you can, but it’s the more innovative modern dishes that really impress. The ‘chef’s menu’ is probably the best way to sample these, and it’s incredibly good value at £25 per person (min. 2 people).
Kicking things off with an excellent octopus carpaccio that doesn’t suffer from being a misnomer (it’s actually cooked), fresh-as-a-daisy fish is sliced in barely-there slivers before being dressed with paprika, capers and mandarin caviar. Endives and valdeon cheese foam packs a perfectly balanced punch - one that’s swiftly followed by some huge scallops seared to bouncy (beards left on, mind) and served with an almost unfeasibly powerful (in a good way) cauliflower puree and chunks of quality chorizo.
A generous slab of pan-fried cod (complete with judiciously crispy skin) is sweet enough to work impeccably with sanfaina, tomatoes, peppers and some very good, chewy roasted aubergines, but the black risotto that follows is even better. Some might not like the artistic dark smears on each side of the plate but the flavours from ink, the rice, the prawn, the squid and the expert seasoning make for one very impressive dish.
Gorgeous, earthy and beautifully tender pork cheeks served on a carrot puree with shallots cooked in red wine are brilliant, but the serrano ham croquettes that follow are the only elements that don’t impress - they're just a touch bland. Still, a quite remarkably good wood pigeon swiftly brings things back to form - it’s served with a gorgeous fig puree and a red wine jus that are spot-on sweet bedfellows to a perfectly cooked bit of bird.
Desserts are no slouches either, with the tasting menu finishing on a gorgeous trio of chocolate trufa (a ridiculously rich but well balanced little truffle), chocolate mousse (lighter, but sweeter) and a generous smear of toffee with the tiniest hint of saffron. The crema catalala 'two ways' is also worth a try (though it’s not part of this menu), with a pretty good classic version (a crème brûlée to most) being overshadowed by a lighter, whipped version that’s nigh on impossible to leave.
Happily El Pirata Detapas keeps the wine list purely Spanish, safe in the knowledge that there’s enough variety and quality there to keep even the most pedantic oenophile content. A few are available by the glass – and more by the carafe – with a sound selection offering the opportunity to enjoy something reasonable or push the boat out a bit, if that’s your fancy. Even the least expensive option, a 2010 Tempranillo from Castila La Mancha, is impressively quaffable but if you want to spend a little more then there are a wealth of excellent Riojas (particularly the 2007 Muga Reserva at £35.50 and the 2001 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva at £86), as well as a 2008 Jumilla Monsatrell Cabernet Sauvignon from El Nido Clio (£85) that’s worth every penny.
The Last Word
A very London take on the kind of restaurants popping up in the more fashionable parts of Spain, El Pirata Detapas’ combination of expertise, value and atmosphere should be a template for others to follow. In fact, it probably already is.
El Pirata Detapas has been reviewed by 3 users