Passport to Pimlico
Occasionally something takes you by surprise. When asked to review Omar’s Place, a Pimlico restaurant, I didn’t have any real sense of what it would be like. I knew that Mallorcan born chef Vicente Fortea had an impressive CV that includes three Michelin-Starred Arzak in San Sebastian and one Michelin-Starred Plat D’Or in Mallorca; and that the menu offered ‘contemporary tapas that have been carefully selected from the coastal towns of the Mediterranean’. But London is full of restaurants with that offer…So we turned up to that bit of Pimlico that is really Victoria and in a back street found what was obviously a converted pub.It has been cleverly restyled and has a rather sexy Mediterranean-style interior decked out in rust colours, with mirrors and lighting lifting a grey London mood.There’s also a small bar area which is perfect if you just want a drink or a less formal dining space.We chose a couple of drinks from the deliciously summery cocktail list whilst snacking on some plump Gordal olives and ‘golden’ roasted almonds.The Pimlico Bellini was a blend of pomegranate juice, Limoncello, Grenadine and Prosecco. It was subtly sweet but with a hint of sour from the pomegranate. I went for the Classic Spritz made with Cynar, the artichoke-based Amari and Prosecco. It had that classic Italian bitter twist that I love. And then we looked at the menu and at that point the Arzak connection made sense and I started to get excited. The first thing I need to say is that Omar’s Place is not a ‘patatas bravas’ type of tapas restaurant. From the menu it seemed that chef Vicente Fortea is taking top quality ingredients and showcasing the produce in an exciting and creative fashion whilst respecting its integrity.We started with dishes from the cold tapas menu. Squid Tartar was served on lemon with a seawater foam. The dish was delicately citric with a squidgy (in a good way!) saline texture. It was a beautifully balanced mouthful, a great palate cleanser, and a statement of intent from the kitchenIntensely flavoured hummus duets of beetroot and green pea hummus creams came in a crispy paper cigar. I loved this dish, elevating something simple to a more playful space.And this theme continued with the extraordinary Foie Gras Meringue. The sweetness of the ethereal beetroot meringue was unexpectedly and joyously counterpointed with the luxuriant, smooth funkiness of foie gras and mushrooms. By this this time in the meal we had moved on to a bottle of Trebbiano Spoletino Perticaia from Umbria which had a wonderful balance of creaminess and minerality.
And then on to the hot tapas menu. Seared Mediterranean prawns (Gambas al Ajillo) were cooked with with garlic and chilli. The prawns were not oily and had a seductive sweetness combined with the tasted of the sea. Simple and beautifully realised. A trio of crispy potato paper filled egg parcels with soft yolk and truffle was a wonderful expression of technique. Outwardly unprepossessing, a bite into the crisp exterior allowed the softness of the yolk and truffle to coat your tongue with luxuriant pleasure!Another surprise arrived with the Paella Socoradda. A regal Carabinero prawn sat on a throne of ‘burnt’ crispy rice. A carbon paella fetishising the much prized crunchy, caramelised ‘bottom’ of the dish. A super tender octopus tentacle cooked over charcoal was another testament to the visceral flavour potential of heat, flame and char.It’s always an honour to eat turbot – one of the great ocean fishes. At Omar’s Place, it was fried Andalusian style -posh fish fingers served with a light mayo. A wonderful selection of side dishes included some sultry Piquillo peppers served with cauliflower, wonderful charred baby gem lettuce and rosemary potatoes roasted with onions and olive oil.We nearly couldn’t manage desserts but couldn’t resist the light and delicious Torrija, a caramelised bread and butter pudding with coffee ice cream, and the coffee meringue and tiramisu ice-cream which was like eating clouds of coffee.
After the meal we sat with the owner Omar who comes from a well-regarded family of Egyptian hoteliers. He spoke with real passion about the restaurant and together with chef Vicente Fortea he has created a Mediterranean jewel in the heart of London, a Pimlico restaurant that’s worth travelling for. Vicente wasn’t in the kitchen the night we visited which says a lot about the quality of the whole team which is fronted by the charming Anna.
I’d love to see Omar’s Place thrive. It’s definitely worth getting that passport to Pimlico!
13 Cambridge Street,
London SW1V 4HP