115 Westbourne Grove
This little Spanish find on Westbourne Grove is quite the place to indulge with its surprisingly reasonable price tag. You might be forgiven for thinking that the luxurious town houses flanking the streets nearby, could dictate a more expensive restaurant bill at El Pirata. Gladly this wasn't the case – as we looked through the options, the chef's tasting menu jumped out at just £25 for a varied clutch of Spanish treats. Available for at least two people per table, we decided to go for it and whet our appetites in anticipation with glasses of manzanilla.
El Pirata draws its inspiration from the ever popular El Pirata in Mayfair. Head chef, Omar Allibhoy, has added vogueish touches to the menu but the old classics are there too. Dark wooden flooring and jet black tables and chairs give El Pirata a stripped back, modern feel. My dining partner was trying to modernise his palate on this occasion too. After raising an eyebrow at a couple of items on the chef's tasting menu, I convinced him that he'd get nowhere without trying a few different dishes. When the octopus carpaccio arrived with clementine caviar and capers, he tucked right in but downright refused to try the endives with valdeón cheese foam, on the grounds that the texture of salad leaves “freaked him out”. Both dishes were lovely – the carpaccio was moreish with its firm, pickled mouthfuls of octopus and the endive with valdeón was a light dish, which packed a cheesy punch.
Next up were 3 main dishes: pan fried cod (soft and beautifully cooked), seared scallops with iberian bacon (juicy and plump), and squid, black rice and black alioili. Bearing in mind that salad leaves were offensive enough to my dining partner, this last dish raised more than an eyebrow. A sceptical look was thrown at the white bowl, the contents of which was entirely black. Not the most appetising of colours admittedly, the dish did look a little sinister for a main meal with its monochrome look. After a little persuasion though, my dining partner tucked in, only to sing its praises. It tasted wonderfully warming and full of smokey flavour, and was the best dish of the three, when it came down to substance.
By this point we were nearing that satisifed stage, where pudding would perfectly round off a meal. But we had 3 more dishes to go: pork cheeks in red wine, serrano ham croquettes and marinated rib eye skewers. Our skewers were a little chewy but the pork cheeks won the moment with their slow-cooked texture and restorative flavour. We sat back for a few minutes, before our puds arrived. We should have been too full to eat them, but they were so beautifully eye-catching and tasted so wonderful that it was just impossible. The crema catalana and the chocolate trufa both arrived looking suitably contemporary and tasted supremely indulgent. This tasting menu is a brilliant way to eat your way around El Pirata's offerings, and at £25 it's entirely possible to keep coming back for more.
The lunchtime ‘Menu del Dia’ (£9.95) includes a choice of two tapas with bread and alioli and a glass of house wine. The chef’s tasting menu (£25pp) is a selection of nine dishes including: octopus carpaccio, clementine caviar, capers & paprika; pork cheeks, carrot puree and red wine shallots; seared scallops with artichoke hearts & Iberian bacon. Great value for money we think.
**El Pirata Detapas:** 115 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 4UP. Tel: 020 7727 5000. For more information, please visit: www.elpiratadetapas.co.uk.
**Reviewed by: **Helenka Bednar