For any tapas lover, Soho, with its winding, chaotic streets crammed with bars, restaurants and cafes, is a good place to start. For a traditional hit, head straight to Tapas Brindisa Soho (46 Broadwick Street) and bag a seat at one of the high tables overlooking the kitchen. Start with a bowl of green salty padrón peppers, all the better for their gently burnt, blackened ends, and habas fritas or fried broad beans. Then move onto the bomba (a potato and meat ball-shaped croquette), pulpo a la gallega (octopus with baby potatoes and the red spice pimentón) and ox cheeks served with red wine sauce.
For another Soho staple visit the nearby Barrafina (54 Frith Street) and take a seat at one of the stools at the bar, topped with red leather. The simple and affordable menu includes grilled quail with aioli, milk-fed lamb, and sardines on toast. Perfect for an after-work drink and nibble, there are also branches on Drury Lane and Adelaide Street, both in Covent Garden. Meanwhile, Copita (27 D’Arblay St) is one of the best Soho tapas joints to drop by for a glass of cheap red wine and some delicious snacks – they are served in small three or four bite portions, with a menu changing daily.
The unstoppable British celebrity chef, Jason Atherton, recently opened Social Wine & Tapas (38 James Street) in Marylebone – adding another eatery to his collection around the world. It’s a wine bar – with a difference. You can buy a bottle and also dine. The décor is classic chic: green leather stools sit around a polished wooden bar; in the downstairs cellar, tables are edged with rose gold and bespoke wall lights have been created from a 1920s chandelier, once housed in a theatre. As well as traditional European flavours (such as seafood and rabbit Spanish rice) head chef, Frankie Van Loo, has added in a touch of Asia. Notable dishes include chargrilled carrots with burnt aubergine with miso and walnut pesto, or togarashi, ink aioli and lime – all served with Szechuan fried chipirones.
For something more orthodox in Marylebone go to the always bustling Iberica (195 Great Portland Street) where food is served up to city types by chef Nacho Manzano, previously of two Michelin Star Casa Marcial and one Michelin Star La Salgar. Big windows look out to the street and there are few better places to dive into the famous Jamón ibérico. Don’t worry if Iberica is too far – there are also sister restaurants in Canary Wharf, Cabot Square, Victoria and Farringdon.
A short walk away on Goodge Street, two tapas bars both offer a multitude of treats. Salt Yard (54 Goodge Street) offers dishes inspired by both Spain and Italy, with a focus on charcuterie. Flavours are big and bold. The menu, which changes seasonally, includes roast breast of duck with sweet corn polenta and pistachio puree, and smoked eel croquetas with horseradish and beetroot puree. The wine – like the food – is exclusively Spanish and Italian. In the summer, make sure to grab one of the coveted seats on the street outside and wash it down with sangria.
Next door, Barrica (62 Goodge Street) offers a more traditional menu that changes monthly, eschews fuss, and concentrates on good ingredients. Simple dishes include grilled king prawns, char grilled sea bream with garlic sauce and char grilled hangar steak. Make sure to order one of the sherry cocktails or an Aperol Spritz made from aperol, cava and fresh orange.
For something a tad more funky, try Angel & Gypsies in South London (29-33 Camberwell Church Street), where Spanish tapas is served in a Cuban-Mexican themed boutique hotel. Everything here is cooked from scratch – from the sourdough bread to the handmade ice cream. Pop by for brunch or dinner with the tapas inspired by northern Spanish cuisine. The food is hearty: typical dishes include slow cooked cuttlefish stew with paolo petrilli tomatoes and slow cooked porn shoulder with cider and pumpkin.
In Brixton Boqueria (192 Acre Lane) combines modern, sleek, understated décor with reasonably priced food that rarely goes above the £10 mark. The simple dishes pack a punch while the chilled out atmosphere means this is a restaurant for everyone. Don’t miss the seabass with wheat risotto on parmesan and scallops cream or the moreish beef tenderloin with Pedro Ximénez on toasted bread.
Delicate blue porcelain tiles deck the bar and walls of Pizarro (194 Bermondsey Street), José Pizarro’s second restaurant in the capital, just one block away from his sherry and tapas bar, José. If you’re feeling social, eat at the long communal table where you can tuck into delicacies such as fresh green peas and broad beans, sautéed with jamon, squid and mint, or slow cooked pork ribs with roasted tomatoes and pepper salad. Pizarro also gives healthier twists to the more conventionally fatty dishes: expect quinoa, green ball skewers, homemade pickles, and artichoke.