Restaurant Review: El Pirata, Mayfair in London
It’s a warm Tuesday evening and as we step into El Pirata, Mayfair, its tables have already gathered their own collection of traditional tapas dishes and generous glasses of wine. Informal and mirroring Madrid or Barcelona more so than London, this traditional Spanish joint has had its doors open for nearly a quarter of a century; dishing up authentically delicious Spanish cuisine to the diners of Mayfair.
With over 60 tapas dishes and 140 Spanish wines to choose from and with prices that are not typical of Mayfair, El Pirata is the gift that keeps giving. A restaurant true to its name and set over two floors, we are seated on the ground floor and amongst the buzz of the happy diners around us we waste no time getting stuck into glasses of Cava and raspberry mojitos. As authentic as its menu, the manager soon appears and takes it upon himself to present us with a selection of dishes which best sing the song of this Spanish gem.
Round one of this carousel of sharing dishes, El Pirata lives up to its name with tapas plates filled with salty green padron peppers, beautiful slices of serrano ham and hearty slices of baguette with aioli. Each dish painting its own corner of Spain, the seaside comes fourth as sizzling garlic prawns and octopus dusted with paprika; and as requested by my guest – creamy ham croquettes, black squid ink rice and a platter of lightly seared asparagus. Spanish rice pudding stands its ground in the dessert list, creamy it is topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon, this we enjoyed with a wedge of naughty chocolate cake with a dark glazed icing drizzled across the top.
Led by Head Chef Rosendo Simbana who is renowned for cooking some of the best tapas in London, El Pirata’s specialties include Langostinos al chef (grilled king prawns in a sauce of tomato, garlic and white wine); Calamares con arroz negro (black rice and squid); Pincho moruno con chorizo (marinated chicken skewers with chorizo) and Fritos de rape (deep fried medallions of monk fish).
Alongside tapas, El Pirata offers larger, traditional special dishes including Cochinillo a la traditional (roasted suckling pig with potatoes in a traditional style) and Lubina a la Espalda (whole grilled butterflied sea bass, with garlic and chilli, olive oil, sherry vinegar and served with fresh beans and pobre potatoes).
Refreshingly unpretentious and representing true Spanish cuisine, Spain itself should be proud of El Pirata and what they have been dishing up to Londoners for the last 20 odd years. I have often said it is hard to find real Spanish tapas in London that hasn’t been diluted by some modern fusion; but with a menu that carves out the culinary signposts of Spain, El Pirata contently dishes up tradition with no new style nonsense.
Address: El Pirata, 5-6 Down Street, Mayfair, W1J 7AQ, 020 7491 3810, elpirata.co.uk