A certain someone once proclaimed that dining ‘tapas style’ was his favourite way of eating. This might be controversial as I know the small plates ethos isn’t for everyone but I would happily agree with him here. It’s absolutely perfect for someone like me who suffers from incredible plate envy, has major menu indecision, and quite frankly, sometimes just wants to order everything. With tapas, you technically can… if money was no object. That’s really the only downside to this wonderful way of eating, get too carried away and sometimes the bill can sting you!
So to save you from diners regret and tapas induced crimes against your bank balance, I’ve got three places where you should splash your cash for small plates of goodness. Of course, London is loaded with Spanish tapas restaurants but here are a couple of my favourites…
Barrafina – The Toughest Seats to Score
Possibly the most well known tapas restaurant in London, nabbing a seat at any of Barrafina’s three sites is quite a challenge with their no reservations policy but I promise you, the food is worth the wait. The menu has a great selection of all the classics with a modern twist, but we went wild for the offal options. We’ve been so excited by the resurgence of offal on menus these days and never turn down the opportunity for some nose to tail dining! It may seem off-putting but when done right, these odds and ends are delicious.
It’s tough to pick highlights from an almost flawless meal but if I must… the perfectly crumbed, creamy lamb’s brain, the smokey chargrilled lamb’s kidneys, and the impeccably fresh prawn and bonito ceviche. With all the seats at the bar, everyone gets a front row view of the chefs at work; the orders are relentless which makes for an exciting watch and vibrant atmosphere!
Tendida Cuatro – The Romantic Spot
Tucked away in Fulham is an elegant, dimly lit spot which is ideal for a date night dinner! Part of the Cambio de Tercio group of Spanish restaurants, the specialty at Tendida Cuatro is tapas and paella, but we stuck to the small plates. We couldn’t go past some of our favourites including boquerones, gambas, and patatas bravas while also indulging in some grilled items such as the succulent lamb chops and asparagus with romesco sauce.
Those were all splendid, however, the most surprising dish was the simply titled, tomates 8hrs; with very little expectation of what the dish would be, we ordered it more out of curiosity than anything else and I’m pleased we chanced it. There were several types of dried tomatoes, each bringing a different level of sweetness and tartness, which was complimented with balls of creamy goat’s cheese and cubes of basil jelly; not something we’d ordered before but definitely something we’d order again on our next visit!
The Little Taperia – The Neighbourhood Gem
Situated just around the corner from our flat, I was thrilled at the arrival of The Little Taperia; it added another welcomed gem, and cuisine, to the Tooting dining scene, and I’m pleased to see it’s always busy! I liked the succinct list of offerings here; too many menu items always makes me wonder how successful they can be at sending them out. But even with such a tidy list, we had trouble selecting as it all sounded very appealing… pig’s cheeks, arroz negro, salt cod fritters… where to begin, well with cocktails and boquerones, naturally.
Then we were on a roll; their famous morcilla scotch eggs were a must, a tortilla seemed a safe bet, as did the garlic prawns, and pinchos morunos with chimichurri sauce. However, the highlight for me was the Txipiron baby squid stuff with morcilla, definitely a must order dish. We rounded off the meal with a slice of their Santiago tart, which for those unfamiliar is a slightly zesty almond cake, not too sweet but still quite decadent and tasty!
There you have it, my top picks for tapas in London… even if small plates isn’t your thing, the style of food itself is always flavoursome and comforting, so look past the plates and dive in!
I am always on the hunt for some new tapas spots… what are your favourites?