El Pirata

Tel: +44 (0)20 7491 0853
Address: 5-6 Down Street, Green Park W1J 7AQ
Cuisine Type: Spanish
nearest tube station Green Park (VICTORIA, JUBILEE, PICCADILLY)

On entering El Pirata, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had mistakenly walked into a pub. The crowd that greeted us seemed to be more interested in relaxing with a drink at the ground floor bar than the Spanish tapas we’d come in search of. However, we were led downstairs to the dining area, which is dominated at one end by illuminated shelves of multi-coloured bottles, and decorated elsewhere with Miro and Picasso prints. The buzzy and informal atmosphere makes this restaurant a popular choice for groups as well as couples.

There is an extensive menu, offering over 50 tapas, ranging from acorn fed Iberian ham to deep-fried monk fish medallions to kidneys in sherry, as well as a few main courses (including chicken wrapped in Serrano ham, roasted suckling pig with pobre potatoes, mixed grilled fish and seafood platter) and a couple of set tapas menus (£13.75 / £17.50), billed as “an introduction to tapas”.

We chose ensalada de esparragos trigueros (£5.50), perfectly cooked wild asparagus on a bed of mixed salad leaves tossed in a tarragon vinaigrette and topped with manchego cheese shavings, which arrived shortly before sardinas fritas (£3.75). These (widely under-rated) fish, although fried, were still succulent and well complemented by the tangy lemon, parsley and white wine sauce.

There ensued an overly long wait for the next tapas to arrive, during which we consumed the best part of a sizable basket of (baguette) bread with an addictive garlic mayonnaise dip. This basket was replenished with what seemed like another baguette’s worth of bread, which I’m sure we would have demolished, so it was almost a relief when the habas con jamon (£3.50), pan fried broad beans with olive oil and cured ham, arrived. This received a thumbs up from my date, though I found the beans a little overdone. Pimiento relleno (red pepper stuffed with vegetable risotto and cheese) and crepe relleno de verdures salteadas (crepe filled with vegetables), both at £3.95, were flavourful, but again overcooked.

The wine list features a variety of Spanish wines at very reasonable prices (many under £20), and there is also a cocktail / spirits list with the dessert menu. On our waiter’s recommendation, we enjoyed thimblefuls of licor manzana (apple liquor) and moscatel to accompany the creamy arroz con leche (£3.50), a caramelised Spanish style rice pudding chosen from the otherwise surprisingly un-Spanish selection (crème brulee, ice cream, tartufo…), the perfect ending to an enjoyable meal.