If you’re a sharer, you’ll love tapas. The Spanish small plate concept is perfect for those who want to try everything on the menu but don’t have the appetite to match. Served hot and cold, and as a starter or combined to create a feast, the opportunities with tapas are endless – and that’s why it’s so loved in the capital, Europe and beyond. Read on for our edit of the best tapas restaurants in London.
Barrafina, across London
Now with five London outposts – King’s Cross, Soho, two in Covent Garden and Borough – the Hart brothers’ Catalonian-inspired restaurant is so popular that foodies in any corner of the capital won’t have to travel too far to get their tapas fix. Modern, Michelin-starred fare is the order of the day here – primarily focusing on tortillas, seafood and meats – and all restaurants feature an open kitchen, a marble-topped bar for counter dining and stylish red leather stools so guests can watch the chefs at work.
Each site also boasts its own specials, but popular plates include the prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla, chicken thigh and romesco, beetroot salad, pan con tomate, and cured monkfish. Pair with a classic Spanish sherry (helpful staff are on hand to help you whittle down the extensive list) and you’ve got yourself the perfect night out.
Sabor, meaning ‘flavour’ in Spanish, is a lively Michelin-starred restaurant which offers foodies three distinct dining experiences to create a journey from the tapas bars of Andalucía through to the asadors of Castile and the seafood restaurants of Galicia. Founded by Nieves Barragan and José Etura, tapas is offered on all three menus at the Counter, El Asador (the main restaurant) and the Bar, however, it’s the latter which has dedicated its entire menu to the Spanish small plate offering. Here, order the soft shell crab with alioli, coriander and chilli, 48-day aged beef with payoyo cream, prawn croquetas, and monkfish tempura.
35-37 Heddon Street, W1B 4BR, visit saborrestaurants.co.uk
Bar Kroketa, Soho
If your favourite aspect of tapas are the creamy, deep-fried croquetas, then this is the place for you. Having singled out this special dish, which is commonly found on tapas menus throughout the world, and elevated it to a seven-strong menu, this small but welcoming space on Beak Street offers “no fuss, no frills, no reservations”. The daily changing blackboards feature the croquetas – think fillings of king prawn, black squid ink, baby leek and cherry tomato and, a personal favourite, piquillo and manchego – alongside countertop bar snacks and small dishes from the open kitchen. From crab toasties with pickles and salt cod and harissa to Guinness and chorizo popcorn, there is an innovative dish to delight every tapas fan.
21 Beak Street, W1F 9RR, visit kroketa.co.uk
Cambio de Tercio, across London
This authentic Spanish chain boasts three addresses on South Kensington’s Old Brompton Road, each dedicated to a different aspect of Spanish cuisine. It counts tennis stars Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as fans, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. If you’re looking for atmosphere, Capote Y Toros is the place to be, with its tapas, sherries and live Spanish guitar aiming to transport guests to a backstreet taberna in Cadiz o Jerez de la Frontera. Cambio de Tercio, meanwhile, is the chain’s flagship; opened in 1995, it’s famous for its contemporary cuisine and 500-strong Spanish wine list.
The dedicated tapas restaurant, however, is Tendido Cero, found at 174 Old Brompton Road. Here, the authentic menu is divided into meat, vegetarian, vegan and seafood tapas, offering an array of perfectly-sized small plates of sherry-marinated chicken, grilled Iberian pork pluma and roasted pineapple, Galician octopus with potato-cauliflower cream and sweet paprika, and roasted parsnips with rosemary, macadamia pesto and smoked aubergine purée. Delicious.
Parrillan, King’s Cross and London Bridge
Barrafina’s little sister, Parrillan, follows a similar theme to its Spanish sibling but celebrates authentic flavours achieved via grilling and wood-firing meats, seafood and vegetables. The Borough Yards site features an outdoor terrace under Victorian brick railway arches with a unique menu of woodfired oxtail, grilled lemon sole, stonebass esqueixada and oven-baked wild mushroom and leek tart.
Head to north London’s Coal Drops Yard for a choice of dishes that you can actually cook yourself on your very own bespoke mini-grill, including paella-style rice with spring vegetables, 25-day aged trasacar beef sirloin, tuna pintxo and and corn-fed chicken. Book a table on the heated terrace, surrounded by Mediterranean plants, for a real party-pleasing setting.
Lobos, London Bridge and Soho
Founders Roberto, Joel, Cortés and Ruben first opened Lobos – which means wolves in Spanish – in Borough Yards in 2015 after working together for seven years. The concept here is authentic tapas celebrating Spanish hospitality. Accordingly, the food focus here is of the meat variety, featuring dishes of ribeye steak with pan-fried foie gras, pan-fried shoulder of Iberico pork, pork and beef meatballs with tomato and the popular Secreto Iberico, using the ‘hidden’ cut of Spanish pork which is naturally fatty and full of flavour.
El Pirata, Mayfair
This Mayfair institution has been serving Spanish small plates for more than a quarter of a century, priding itself on being a welcoming restaurant catering for celebrities such as Brian May and Johnny Depp, as well as well-heeled local residents and the commuter crowd. It’s been named the best tapas restaurant in London several times and offers a wide range of dishes served by helpful staff in an informal setting, which takes its cues more from Madrid than Mayfair.
Hungry foodies will delight at the 60-plate tapas menu, which is divided into salads, light bites, seafood, vegetarian, meat, Iberian ham and cheese and finally desserts. But for those looking to sample a selection of the best on offer, choose the Introduction to Tapas menu, featuring 10 dishes including chorizo in cider and onion, chicken croquetas, sweet-glazed chicken wings and garlic prawns in dried hot chilli. It doesn’t get much better than this.
5-6 Down Street, W1J 7AQ, visit elpirata.co.uk