Sometimes success comes from staying true to your roots. This rings true of El Pirata: ‘a slice of España in the city’ that has, (lockdown aside) had its doors open for over a quarter of a century. A truly traditional Spanish restaurant tucked away on a sleepy side street, El Pirata is a place that epitomises the most splendid Spanish dining experiences and reflects Madrid or Barcelona more so than the quintessential streets of Mayfair.
What’s the recipe for its success? Long-serving Patron, Jose Rodrigues leads with simplicity. Offering a traditional selection of quality Spanish dishes and wines, served by friendly, personable staff in a relaxed and informal setting. A menu that is designed for both tapas aficionados and newbies; this refreshingly unpretentious Mayfair joint has a success that simmers down to their ability to make guests feel truly looked after.
Dishing up authentically delicious Spanish cuisine to the diners of Mayfair, choose from over 60 tapas dishes and 140 Spanish wines with prices that are not typical of Mayfair. Set over two floors, we are seated on the ground floor and start with flutes of cava (what else?) before moving onto a jug of sweet, fruit sangria. Giving us a taster of Spanish culture whilst we may not currently be able to visit due to restrictions, this soon follows with our selection of tapas dishes that embody the culinary heritage of this vibrant European nation.
A carousel of sharing tapas plates includes salty green Padron peppers, beautiful slices of fatty Secreto de cerdo Iberico (succulent Iberian pork) and Spain’s National Treasure the Jamón Iberico alongside hearty slices of baguette with aioli. Each dish painting its own corner of Spain, the seaside comes forth as sizzling garlic prawns and octopus dusted with paprika; and as requested by my guest: creamy ham croquettes, black squid ink rice and a platter of lightly seared asparagus.
Other traditional and classic tapas dishes range from seafood and light bites to carne, paella and a strong vegetarian offering too. Whilst ensuring they keep their offering fresh and exciting in the face of lockdown, El Pirata has also decided to shake things up to ensure future success by working with Zac Whittle. The former Executive Chef of Michelin starred Galvin Restaurants, Zac has introduced a welcome refresh the menu, including some brand-new dishes to compliment a new era of post-pandemic eating and drinking restaurants in London.
The wine list is well worth a wander too. Guiding diners on a vineyard tour of Spain from Albariño and Garnacha to Xarel-lo and Ximénez, El Pirata’s expansive wine list comfortably competes with the comprehensive food menu. Meanwhile, over at the bar enjoy an afternoon Aperitivo or a whiskey at the glass-backed bar which showcases all manner of spirits and tipples to browse.
A charismatic interior adorned with Spanish prints, black and white photography and dark wooden floors underpins El Pirata’s friendly hospitality and heart-warming menu. Replicating a Spanish tapas bar you may stumble upon whilst on holiday, the restaurant is set to the soundtrack of gentle guitar music, glasses clinking, popping of corks, rap of cutlery and hum of excitable conversation. Whilst outside for an al fresco dining experience is El Pirata’s terrace: a sleepy spot ideal for sipping sangria and watching the world go by.
A city laden with Japanese, Indian and Italian restaurants, it is often tricky to find real Spanish tapas places to eat in London that hasn’t been diluted by some modern fusion. El Pirata however dishes up nothing less than the traditional. Transporting guests one mouthful at a time to the warmer climates of Spain, this restaurant is one of the truest representations of Spanish cuisine: certainly, in Mayfair and likely central London.