Tim Firmager heads to El Pirata in London’s Mayfair district for some authentic mid-week tapas ideal for a Spanish date night.
El Pirata is a Mayfair institution which offers diners Spanish tapas, made using quality ingredients. For over 20 years El Pirata has been serving authentic tapas. The restaurant has a menu with more than 60 dishes, and over 140 Spanish wines. We at Vada thought it was therefore about time to experience El Pirata for ourselves.
Set over two floors, the ground floor of El Pirata has 35 covers and a spiral staircase leads guests down to a larger lower ground space. For art lovers, the ground floor is filled with Picasso and Miro prints. On one side of the restaurant there is a mirrored bar the runs the full length of the ground floor and specialises in Spanish wine. For a Tuesday evening, we found this Mayfair favourite bustling with barely an empty table. And with friendly and welcome service from our dapper waiter, Felipe, we quickly eased from work mode into the date night atmosphere.
The tapas menu, reminiscent of a numbered Chinese menu, is split into several categories and was easy to navigate. We recommend 6 to 7 single plates to share between two people. In addition, we started with some pan con tomate (£2.65) – toasted bread topped with fresh tomato, olive and garlic, and jamon iberico pata negra, gran reserva (£19.95) – a limited edition Iberian ham made from acorn-fed pigs. Both very simple dishes, but quality dishes that need no other accompaniment.
To drink we chose a bottle of Spanish Rioja, Cerro anon reserva (£35) to enjoy with all our meals.
Our selection of tapas to share started two light bites, a number 11 tabla de quesos y membrillo – a selection of four cheese with quince jelly (£7.15) and a number 27 calamaris a la romana, deep fried fresh squid (£7.95). The former included a delicious manchego, and the latter whilst crunchy and light, we were left with slight food envy over the other calamari dish, lightly grilled and served with black rice.
Patatas bravas – deep-fried potatoes served with chilli and garlic sauce (£4.05) arrived next. We were hoping for a tomato-based sauce cooked into the potato, but El Pirata’s alternative approach was a still necessary tapas plate for our table. The pollo al ajilo, pan fried chicken on the bone in a white wine, garlic and olive oil sauce (£5.70) was tastier than it looked (which was much like chicken in gravy). Pinchos morunos con chorizo, marinated chicken skewers with chorizo (£7.95) are another definite must-choose tapas. A lighter option, the escalivada con esalada de hierbas – roasted peppers filled with layers of aubergine and anchovies with herb salad (£5.60) was creative and moreish, but we think the plate would be served better with two peppers and fewer/no salad garnish. Fritos de rape i.e. deep fried medallions of monk fish (£6.85) were well cooked with a light, crisp batter.
For dessert, if you do save room, we recommend the vanilla ice cream with Pedro Ximenez wine (£6.95). An authentic, adult pleasure.
El Pirata offers an authentic Spanish tapas experience in the heart of Mayfair, but not at typical Mayfair prices. We received genuine hospitality from our waiter, Felipe. The tapas on offer broadly follows traditional recipes so will suit those looking for food heritage. Some tapas plates did not jump out with the wow factor, but overall the quality (of food and service) was great. An average 6 – 7 plates including desserts would cost £30 – £35 per person plus drinks and service. Ideal for a date night, if you’re on a budget without wanting to feel like you’re on a budget.
El Pirata is located at 5-6 Down Street, Mayfair, W1J 7AQ
For more information or to book, call 020 7491 3810 or visit elpirata.co.uk