We love tapas. There’s something about being able to try a whole range of different dishes that satisfies every single tastebud and subconsciously makes you feel like you’ve eaten less than you probably (actually) have. You’ll soon know your Brindisa from your Barrafina and your Boqueria from your Bocca di Lupo. Work your way through the list or just head to Soho; it’s a good place to start. Prepare for buzzy atmospheres and informality and prepare to queue; most don’t take reservations but are well worth the wait.
What: Informal, Bustly Tapas
Why: Tapas Brindisa’s ingredients come directly from Spain to give you an authentic experience in the heart of Soho, Shoreditch or the foodie hub that is Borough Market. They don’t take reservations so cross your fingers and arrive early – but don’t let the tasters in Borough Market spoil your appetite, there is charcuterie and plenty of wine to indulge in.
Where: Soho, Shoreditch and London Bridge
Barrafina Dean Street
Leicester Square (0.2 miles)
What: Highly Renowned Tapas
Why: Think of the best tapas in London and Barrafina is, more often than not, the first that springs to mind. A permanent queue of eager diners snaking out the door lures diners who weren’t even planning on going there by sheer curiosity. And for those who do seek it out, daily changing specials, Spanish wines and stylish marble interiors make it somewhere you’ll want to return to, time and time again. Pay a visit to Barrafina’s new home in Quo Vadis on Dean Street.
Where: 26-27 Dean Street, London W1D 3LL
Bocca di Lupo
What: Italian Tapas
Why: Bocca di Lupo is a stalwart of the London small plates/tapas scene. Italian tapas plates are served in smart yet simple surroundings (ideal for date night), with details of each dish’s origins on the menu. Fried lamb chops (from Piemonte) and pork and veal stuffed olives (from Rome) are consistently praised, and the word “perfect” often used.
Where: 12 Archer Street, Soho, W1D 7BB
What: Tapas in Brixton and Battersea
Why: The sleek interiors of Boqueria attract daters, families and birthday groups alike – in fact the sharing nature of the food is ideal for big groups. Traditional tortilla, paella and Iberian ham and chicken croquettes sit alongside more contemporary dishes – we love the cochinillo asado; crispy suckling pig with sweet potato crisps, apple sauce and lemon sorbet. That pork though…
Where: Battersea and Brixton
What: Cosy Tapas, Seated on High Stools
Why: Another little Soho favourite, Copita (Barrica’s little sister) is an informal tapas bar complete with stools and high tables – in the style of traditional Spanish culture of eating standing up or perched at the bar. Wines are all available by the glass or carafe and gin and tonics are served in fishbowl-sized glasses (almost) as they are in Spain. The truffled goats cheese with honey and almonds is worth a try, just keep an eye on your tab as it can quickly add up.
Where: 27 D'Arblay Street, Soho, W1F 8EP
What: Contemporary Spanish Tapas and Gin Tónicas
Why: Pizarro sits rather unassumingly on Bermondsey Street, but that’s where the subtleties end. Acorn-fed iberico ham and perfectly rare pork will leave you dreaming of them till your next visit and ‘The Bermondsey Bomb’ (pork mince, potato and aioli; pictured) does as the name suggests and blows everything else out of the park. The restaurant itself is inviting with rustic wood and covetable blue and white tiles fronting the bar. Visit the smaller sherry and tapas bar round the corner for an equally authentic (if not more so) experience.
Where: 194 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3TQ
What: Quality Tapas All Over London
Why: We reviewed Ibérica last year and, writing this now, think it’s just about time for another visit… The Serrano ham croquettes were a highlight, as were the garlic grilled mushrooms with prawns, twice cooked lamb and grilled ibérico pork pluma – basically it was all amazing. They have 5 London sites – we went to the newest in Victoria but the Farringdon branch has a lovely intimate atmosphere. Perfect for date night.
The Little Taperia
What: Tapas in Tooting
Why: Tootingites are lucky to be able to call The Little Taperia a local haunt. The neighbourhood feel makes it lively and personal, and the food is very reasonable – probably in part due to cheaper rent than more central locations. Food is perfectly seasoned and the menu dangerously tempting; salt cod fritters and simple sourdough bread with garlic and tomatoes show that you don’t need to mess with simplicity.
Where: 143 Tooting High Street, Tooting, SW17 0SY
What: Tapas With a North African Influence
Why: Morito serves Spanish tapas with a North African edge, a nod to their sister restaurant, Moro, just down the road. A second Morito has opened on Hackney Road but visit the original Exmouth Market site for their version of tortilla and patatas bravas. Aubergine with feta and baby squid show off their Moroccan-y side and it’s worth noting that they have a strong selection for veggies – often lacking on tapas menus.
Where: 32 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4QE
What: Spanish/Italian Charcuterie and Tapas
Why: Sibling of Salt Yard, Ember Yard and Opera Tavern, Dehesa is known for its charcuterie and tapas, in particular the deep-fried courgette flowers, stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey – they’re crisp, cheesy and very moreish. Other classics come in the form of chorizo, croquettes and charcuterie, in particular acorn-fed Iberico ham and house cured duck breast. Once you’ve ticked Dehesa off, be sure to visit the other 3 sites – they’re award-winning for a reason.
Where: 25 Ganton Street, Soho, W1F 9BP