Authentic Spanish Tapas at El Pirata Mayfair
On a wonderful trip to Catalonia last year I travelled through countryside and city, discovering the joys of fresh and flavorsome Spanish cuisine; so finding a traditional tapas bar and restaurant in my own fair city which serves delicious Spanish tapas with such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere was an absolute delight. At El Pirata, I was able to relive my Catalonian food memories – not in Barcelona, but tucked away in a quiet street between Piccadilly and Park Lane, in the heart of London’s Mayfair.
El Pirata has been in residence since 1994, serving authentic Spanish dishes to locals, business clientele and celebrities alike. You might be impressed to know this includes the gorgeous Johnny Depp and Queen’s eternal rocker Brian May who coincidently said “ El Pirata rocks”. El Pirata is very proud that 90% of their customers are regulars – and after spending a very enjoyable evening here, I can see why people come back time and time again.
On entering we were struck by the bustling atmosphere; it’s dark and cosy, with low beams and a long, glistening mirrored bar; the tables are adorned with black tablecloths; Spanish prints stand in pride of place along the walls and a central spiral staircase leads to further seating downstairs.
The service is friendly and relaxed, and we were brought a great selection of some of my favourite classics to kick off the evening – along with an excellent bottle of Spanish Solnia Sauvignon Blanc, which was fresh and crisp and full of citrus notes.
First, we indulged in one of Spain’s national treasures – some excellent Jambon Ibérico ham (acorn-fed 100% Iberian ham), and Pa Amb Tomaquet, which is a real staple in Catalan cuisine. This was made just as I remembered; wonderfully crispy yet soft bread smothered with juicy tomatoes with lashings of garlic. The Padron peppers from Galicia were sweet and salty, with the occasional hot surprise. Ah…such simple pleasures!
Next, we enjoyed a sea-fresh selection, calamares con Arroz negro – black rice and squid which was absolutely heavenly, rich and velvety, with the perfect addition of a pot of creamy alioli.
Pulpit a la Gallega was a delicious, tender and lightly-spiced octopus with potatoes, olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.
Gambas al pil-pil arrived, juicy fat prawns, steeped in chilli and olive oil which had my mouth watering.
And next, some meat and veg….
Garbanzos con pisto is a ratatouille-type dish made with chickpeas, slow-cooked aubergine and courgettes. Fresh and fruity, it was the perfect accompaniment to the meat dishes.
Vuelta de carne-pan were melt-in-the-mouth fried medallions of steak with garlic and red peppers in white wine, rather like my favourite Sunday roast with a Spanish twist.
Then, Albóndugas meatballs. I always enjoy this classic Spanish dish, and these were very tasty indeed.
Finally, to round off the main dishes, some tender beautifully spiced marinated chicken and chorizo skewers.
Pudding was right up my street too – the Creme Catalana was a gorgeously smooth creme brûlée with a perfect crisp caramelized topping.
And there was more! Tarta Santiago is a traditional moist Galician cake, made with almonds and served with vanilla ice cream – which for a lover of anything almond such as myself, is a must-have.
The secret to El Pirata’s long success is simple; a vast choice of really excellent Spanish food and wine, in a wonderfully warm atmosphere with fast and friendly service. It took me right back to Catalonia.
There is a wide range of food and wine on offer, with more than 60 dishes on the menu; from restaurant specials like cochinillo a la traditional (roast suckling-pig with potatoes) to tapas classics including boquerones (anchovies in vinegar), patatas bravas (deep-fried potatoes in a chilli and garlic sauce) and pescados y mariscos fritos de rape (deep fried medallions of monkfish).
From 12 pm to 3 pm stop by for the Menu del Dia: two tapas dishes, a basket of bread and alioli, and a glass of wine or beer – unbeatable value at £10.25 per person. El Pirata’s Menu to Share at £25 each includes up to ten tapas dishes.
So if you fancy a slice of Spanish life, right in the centre of London’s West End at a very reasonable price…look no further than El Pirata. You won’t be disappointed.
5-6 Down Street, Mayfair
London, W1J 7AQ
Mon – Fri: 12.00pm – 11.30pm
Saturday: 6.00pm – 11.30pm
Sunday & Bank Holidays: Closed
Telephone & Email Bookings
020 7491 3810