El Pirata in Mayfair cites itself as ‘informal, inexpensive and authentic Spanish tapas’ so in preparation for a trip to Barcelona later in the year we went down to check it out.
When we arrived almost every inch of the front door was covered in stickers informing us that they had appeared in food guides, had won numerous awards and so on, rather impressive maybe but it rather cheapened the look of the place, I think the fact that they’ve survived 20 years in Mayfair, whilst other restaurants open and close before you’ve ordered your starter, is testament to the fact that they must be doing something right.
Inside the restaurant was simple, paintings adorned the walls, to one side stood a large dark bar whilst the floor was covered with small tables; it was packed with more and more people streaming in, again another more reliable sign that they are doing well.
The menu is extensive with over 30 dishes and options for set tapas or you can just pick and choose whatever you fancy which of course is the aim of tapas. Not being good at decisions we went for the latter, choosing little bits here and there and letting the waiter bring recommendations over too.
The simple décor and front door may have given us preconceived ideas of what the food was going to be like but we were actually pleasantly surprised. Stand out dishes for us were the Iberian ham, simple, but when got right all you need is a little bread and aioli and it’s the food of gods. The chorizo al vino, was delicious too and not just because of the added vino. Chicken on skewers were perfectly cooked, but it was the black rice and squid that stole the show. The dramatic colour is so unlike anything else that was served, and had that wonderfully indescribable squid ink flavour. Feeling quite full, we didn’t think we were going to manage the lamb shanks that the waiter brought over, but oh were they good, beautifully tender and rich in taste – we didn’t mind skipping the cheese course for once in order to try them.
El Pirata’s description on its website is pretty accurate, it isn’t trying to be anything it’s not even in Mayfair, it’s serving up authentic tapas with charm and knows it’s doing it right.
To celebrate their 20th birthday they will be serving their first menu from 1994 at the same 1994 prices throughout September!