I rarely reference other diners in my restaurant reviews, but on our recent visit, there was a staff party for InStyle magazine, veteran rocker, Bryan May was dining in one corner of the room and there were no empty tables in sight. Such is the immense popularity of El Pirata of Mayfair. What is more surprising is this restaurant has been opened since 1994; I am sure some of their diners were not even born when they first opened.
I assume they must have had some renovations in the intervening years, as the dining room looks just as smart as any other restaurant in the Mayfair area. They have a fascinating selection of Picasso and cubist prints on the walls, which often distracted from the conversation I was having with my fellow diner.
The classics on their tapas menu, you suspect have not changed over the years, hence their regular diners keep coming back for more. We had a selection of Serrano ham, cured Iberian meats (spanish sausage, salchichon) and pate to start off with. The meat had that appetising shine that you just know has been carefully sourced over time with a respected supplier. If you are peckish, you should try the DON AGUSTIN, Iberico Summon Guiguelo, which has a limited supply.
The visit was a lesson once again in trusting the waiter’s recommendations. My guest ordered the prawns in olive oil, garlic and dried hot chilli peppers, which was fine tasting; but the manager also brought us over the version with tomato, garlic and white wine which was just sumptuous. You could easily finish 2 bowls of bread with that prawn-soaked tomato sauce (even though their bread was far from the best I’ve ever tried)
The other dishes were tried like chicken croquettes, grilled squid in garlic sauce and black rice and squid all felt very homely and traditional. It is the kind of hearty food, you suspect they are following the same recipe they’ve used since 1994. It isn’t going to bring shock and awe but it has that consistency that brings back regular customers.
The black rice and squid was rather short on the squid front and preference is for their paella marinera. It’s a no-expenses spared sharing dish with a decent selection of prawns, mussels and vegetables. The rice is not too moist or dry and has the flavours from the seafood nicely soaked into the mixture.
If you want to know how traditional, classical Spanish tapas dishes should be made, then head down to El Pirata of Mayfair today.