In London, I tend to judge a venue on it’s prolonged existence on the scene. With so many places popping up or shutting down just as fast, one theory I keep close to my heart is to pay attention to anything that has lasted more than a couple of years in this city. El Pirata of Mayfair has been around for over two decades and as one of the city’s finest Spanish tapas restaurants, this family owned and run business has all the paella for you to pay attention.
El Pirata has the rustic charm of a restaurant more than twice its age, with hundreds of bottles propped up behind its lengthy bar, pictures all over its walls and the subdued lighting and low ceiling giving it an olde worlde feel. Sarah Bridge, Editor of A LADY OF LEISURE Blog.
It was my second visit to El Pirata since being back in town from my summer in Croatia and my first experience was as memorable as the second. This time without the bottle of Vega Sicilia from 2002 which is one of the finest and most expensive bottles of red wine I have devoured and is sold at El Pirata for £695. I do tend to prefer my reds from France but as you all know, my heart belongs in Spain (Insert my love for Barcelona here).
We agree on a bottle of 2010 Viña Pedrosa Reserva and admittedly I’ve got no idea what that means, I’m far from the wine expert I expect to be in 12 months time. I’m told that Viña Pedrosa Reserva is made up of mostly tempranillo grapes, the backbone some of the finest red wines that come from Spain and Portugal. Viña Pedrosa Reserva 2010 costs £62 a bottle at El Pirata. The verdict? It’s delicious but no Vega Sicilia. Viña Pedrosa Reserva 2010 is a little flat and not mature enough for my taste buds. I think this bottle will be impeccable in 10 years time.
According to Timeout, the tortilla at El Pirata is among the best in London. I can’t comment on this because I was too fixated on the Pulpo a la gallega (octopus brushed with olive oil & paprika) and Langostinos al chef (grilled king prawns). The octopus simply melts in my mouth and I’m lucky my friend isn’t fond of anything to do with this sea creature so I pretty much have the plate to myself. If I recall correctly, I even dipped some home made bread into the paprika marinate, polishing off the plate, literally- sometimes I have no shame.
The monk fish deserves it’s own special mention, finally a restaurant that knows how to make such a basic dish super delicious and not over done as if it were made in a take away shop.
Many years ago I never would have been caught dead with a meal with a fried egg on it. I like my eggs well-done and most chefs just don’t understand so I steer clear of any egg- related dishes. Fast forward to 2015 and here I am eating Huevos Rotos (Spanish broken eggs), which is not on the menu at El Pirata anymore but available by request. The potatoes are cooked so well that I’ve tricked my mind into any knowledge that there are eggs involved in this dish.
If you’re curious about the meat at El Pirata, allow me to confirm that the lamb cutlets will remind you of the best BBQ you’ve ever had. Mouth watering and cooked medium rare, these cutlets are just perfection. There are certain dishes that I never allow to go to waste and lamb cutlets is definitely one of them (salmon sashimi is another), only because in Australia they are something ridiculous like $40.00 a kilo- a total luxury. The lamb cutlets went well with the garlic mushrooms. Another dish that didn’t go unnoticed was the chicken and chorizo skewers. A dish that can easily be overcooked, dry and overrated, at El Pirata you can only expect the finest standard. The chef absolutely nailed that.
As for desserts, El Pirata seems to have a reputation to live up to but as I’ve gotten older my sweet tooth has died down and on a Friday night my focus is primarily on a good bottle of wine or champagne. Three bottles into Viña Pedrosa Reserva, it’s safe to say that no one cared about dessert.
Considering Mayfair is drenched in Michelin starred restaurants and some of London’s finest bars, it’s quite easy to forget about gems like El Pirata offering an inexpensive experience that will take you right back to Spain, or at least have you curious about trip to the beautiful country if you’ve never visited. Tapas range from £4-13 and I suggest you book a table in advance. El Pirata has a legacy of always being busy.
Elpirata of Mayfair
5-6 Down Street, Mayfair
London, Greater London W1J 7AQ
Tel: 020 7491 3810