El Pirata, is an authentic slice of Spain tucked away in a quiet corner of London’s Mayfair. From the moment you enter, the warm and attentive staff make you feel right at home – as if you have found a hidden family-run establishment in a small Spanish town. Pepe, the restaurant’s General Manager has created a truly welcoming atmosphere, replete with framed prints from Spanish greats Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.
El Pirata is Mayfair’s quintessential tapas restaurant and we opted to have our meal chosen for us. We were treated to a sample of Spanish stalwarts – three starters were promptly brought to the table. The pimentos de piquillo were just the right amount of spice to warm us up for what was to follow. The pan con tomate (tomato bread), a Catalonian specialty provided a mild break, and the thin and flavourful slivers of jamón Iberico were all that was to be expected from their source of free-range pigs that feast on a forest of acorns.
A large, mid-course of five tapas followed: calamares a la romana (calamari), albóndigas (meat balls), carrillera (slow cooked pork cheeks with puréed sweet potato and pumpkin), chorizo a la plancha (grilled chorizo) and gambas al pil-pil (prawns in garlic and chili). It was an enjoyable melange of flavours and textures. We especially liked the prawns – served sizzling, as we are partial to a bit of heat. The chorizo was thinly cut on the diagonal and lightly grilled for a crispy exterior. The slight bite made for a nice balance to the mild pork cheeks.
The final course was a hot pan of paella marinera (seafood and shellfish paella). Large in-shell prawns, mussels, morsels of fish and peas were served on a bed of saffron-steeped Spanish rice – a classic finish to a night of tapas, served with a glass of Spanish red and sparkling water imported from Spain.
Pepe didn’t have to strain too hard to convince us to try two deserts. The torta de chocolate (warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream) was a juxtaposition of light cake coated in a fine sheet of dark chocolate and the helado de vanilla al pedro ximénez – vanilla ice cream, surrounded by sliced strawberry and star fruit and drizzled with sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry – a very nice end-of-night indulgence.
Although happily full and getting weary after a day of work, we could have stayed for hours chatting to Pepe and his team. Reluctantly we had to go, but agreed that we would return soon for a dose of Spanish hospitality.
El Pirata is celebrating the fifteen year anniversary of the Euro and have an exclusive €15 lunch menu, available to enjoy in both pounds (£12.95) and Euros until the 28th February 2017 from 12pm to 6pm daily.
Words by Farley Blackman