Cigala isn’t in one of the flashiest parts of town; Bloomsbury has always been more discreet and serious, housing numerous legal and publishing firms. This fits in with the general style of the restaurant, they offer informal, relaxed tapas style dishes; very much in keeping with their owner and chef, Jake Hodges who was one of the visionary co-founders of famed restaurant, Moro.
The decor is very much clean-cut, light wooden furniture with plenty of white walls, crisp linen and the odd splash of red colour. The focus here is on the food rather than a venue to be seen at. The menu is one of the most authentically Spanish ones you will see in London with key ingredients shipped in from Spain whilst others are bought fresh daily from markets such as Billingsgate and New Spitalfields Market.
Their staff are extremely knowledgeable and ideal for recommending the tapas dishes to try. We started off with a plate of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. It had just the right amount of fat and saltiness and the accompanying tomato toast helped to cut through those taste.
There is no ostentatious presentation here, the food is simply presented with the focus on the ingredients and the spices used to flavour the dishes. Baked crab has plenty of fresh meat in the bowl along with powerful, punchy flavours from cayenne, brandy, tomato and parsley.
The grilled squid was paired guindilla peppers which are traditional, mild, spicy-sweet peppers from the Basque region and winning mojo verde sauce, which is widely regarded as the perfect condiment for grilled fish.
What was less successful was the grilled marinated quail; not that there were issues with the cooking of the dish, but simply the bony nature of the bird. There was relatively little meat and plenty of bones to contend with. Ultimately, the simple dishes worked best like grilled fresh asparagus with a red olive tapenade. They typically like to find the best seasonal ingredients daily from the markets and cook them fresh on the night.
Despite trying to avoid alcohol on the night, their cheeky staff managed to convince me to try their famous dessert, Sopa Inglés. It was a strong-tasting sherry trifle with custard, banana, and syllabub. The fruit sponge cake was light unlike the alcohol content and was the ideal way to finish off a superb Spanish feast.