Last Updated on November 27, 2021
A Taste of Spain in Mayfair
At London Unattached we are big fans of restauranteur brothers Arian and Alberto Zandi, leaders of Emerald Hospitality Group. We have already reviewed their sexy Knightsbridge Latin American restaurant, Zuaya, as well as Como Garden, a buzzing Italian restaurant on Kensington High St.
In early November the brothers added a stylish new high-end Spanish restaurant called El Norte on Mayfair’s Dover Street to their portfolio which we have been asked to review. Just around the corner from the Royal Academy, it offers ‘a sharing style menu of traditional Spanish dishes with a modern and luxury twist’. I’m all for luxury twists and will definitely be checking out their tortilla closely to see where it stands in my top ten list– it’s a tantalising prospect!
The first thing that struck me as I entered El Norte is how Spanish it looks with an interior unlike anywhere else in London. It’s both spacious and stylish with tasselled light fittings and stools, green and chestnut-coloured carpets and walls and banquettes embossed with swirling fabrics. Wine bottles are artfully displayed and there is Spanish guitar-driven pop on the PA adding to the atmosphere.
The bar has a dedicated Sangria menu which I must return to explore (did I mention that it’s open until 1.30 am, so perfect for late-night post-theatre jaunts) as well as a list of classics and some drinks that were completely new to me.
We tried the Agua de Valencia, a blend of gin, vodka, orange juice and Cava. It was a light and refreshing reminder of hot summers in Valencia. Mixing together rum-infused chamomile, Orgeat, Triple Sec, Honey Syrup with fresh lime, the Chamomile Mai Tai was tangy with a great balance between sweetness and acidity.
The menu is divided into Para Picar (Nibbles), Ensaladas and Crudos (Salads and Raw Dishes), Vegetales De Temporada (Seasonal Vegetables), Carnes (Meat and Poultry), Pescados Y Mariscos (Fish and Seafood), and Para Acompañar (Sides). El Norte sources much of their produce directly from Spain bringing in steak from Galicia, olives and olive oil from Córdoba, and tomatoes from Andalucía.
I started with a sublime red prawn tartare with lime olive oil. It was creamy and subtly flavoured, you had to wait for a few seconds to realise just how good it was.
Croquetas de jamon were luscious and rich. Sitting on a bed of guacamole, the croquettes were topped with grilled shards of jamon and then stuffed with the traditional bechamel and potato filling. Additional flecks of ham gave a salty edge to the dish.
We moved on to a fresh crisp bottle of Mar de Frades, Albariño dos Rias Baixas which had bags of tropical fruit on the nose and citrus and pear flavours. It paired particularly well with the next dish, the El Norte Tortilla de Trufa – a truffle tortilla! It was delicious. Filled with mushroom onion and egg and covered with truffle shavings, this could well be the most luxe tortilla in London!
A slightly warmed goat cheese and fig salad with honey was beautifully composed. The figs were covered with torched honey and the sweetness was a perfect counterpoint to the tang of the goat’s cheese.
And finally to the main courses. Pollo a la Catalana was a dish of tender marinated baby chicken with roasted pine nuts in a caramelised barbecue sauce. My standout plate was the Lenguado Salvaje a la Bilbaina – a fantastic piece of wild Dover Sole, the flesh firm to the touch as it should be in a sweet white wine and saffron sauce and topped with slivers of garlic. This was one of my fish dishes of the year without a doubt.
Sides of perfectly seared asparagus on a thick bed of almond Romesco sauce and olive oil mash with layers of fresh truffle were similarly top-notch.
I’m a sucker for anything with chestnuts so the chestnut mousse with toffee was a no-brainer for me. It was like a cross between a Tiramisu and a Crema Catalana with a coffee crumble, the mousse and a smear of toffee for sweetness on the side. Manchego honey and truffle cheesecake was quite dense and sweetened by the honey biscuit base. It was an amazing vehicle for the truffle!
We had a terrific meal with charming service at El Norte where they have elevated some of the classic dishes of Spanish regional cuisines to another level. The restaurant may charge Mayfair prices but you get the full Mayfair experience. Perfect for a hot date or a special treat!
19-20 Dover St, London W1S 4LU