Spanish Tradition and Innovation in Fitzrovia
Quique Dacosta is a 3 Michelin gastronomic star in his native Spain. Lucky for us in this wet August with his new London restaurant Arros QD he has promised to bring ‘the warmth and theatricality of Valencian gastronomy’ to London. Sitting just behind Oxford St in Fitzrovia’s Eastcastle St, the restaurant has picked up mixed reviews so Fiona and I were keen to see what was going on. The restaurant’s concept is built around the six-metre woodfire stove and Quique’s passion for seasonal rice dishes cooked over wood fires (a la llama – on the flame) which in practice means a focus on paella served in both traditional and modernist versions. Ground floor diners get wonderful views of the theatre of the open kitchen but we were upstairs in a more formal if slightly cramped setting. The interiors of Arros QD were designed by Spanish interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán and feature open fires and a spectacular glazed wine cellar featuring Spanish wines that are hard to find elsewhere in London. Fiona had a glass of Vermentino di Bolgheri – it was floral and aromatic – whilst I had a Tio Pepe Fino, dry and salty and perfect for getting the gastric juices flowing. Alongside the rice dishes, the menu features some interesting sounding skewers as well as dishes grilled over wood such as a whole brill or lobster, and a charcoal-marinated skate wing in sweet chilli miso…but we were on a paella mission! From the small dishes menu, we chose the truffle bomb, a veritable mouth explosion with a crisp pastry exterior filled with a molten potato soufflé and topped with a truffle spaghetti. Warm celeriac salad was fresh and herbal with wild rocket, celeriac purée and was dressed with an infused thyme oil. The restaurant has a traditional and contemporary paella menu. The contemporary paellas are cooked in a rectangular ‘Chapa’ pan which allows for individual portions. They include the exciting-sounding octopus and green chard and smoked ‘dashi’ eel with black garlic aioli. However, we wanted to go down the traditional route which is all about the ‘soccarat’, the base of crunchy, caramelised rice and stock that sticks to the bottom of the pan. We had chosen the ‘Mediterranean’ paella to share. The rice base was studded with cuttlefish, tiger prawn and red gurnard and it came with a ‘noras’ pepper aioli. I have eaten paella in Valencia in the not too distant past and this was a totally authentic, traditional version made with top quality prawns. However although authentic it was a little unexciting and if you are looking for a more visceral gastronomic experience you would probably be better off with one of the more contemporary versions of the dish. We shared a dessert – a pistachio sponge topped with a cocoa craquer. It was soft and fluffy with a sharp edge – a bit like Fiona!
Arros QD is definitely worth a visit for a smart night out in town – it’s a lovely space with excellent service and some unusual wines, but go for the more exciting sounding dishes to get the most bang for your buck.
64 Eastcastle Street
London W1W 8NQ
+44 (0)20 3883 3525
Looking for something different? We love the Iberica group of restaurants – read my earlier review to learn why. Or, if you are looking for an authentic Spanish gin experience, try Tonica, it’s a fun and lively option at the London Distillery.