Basque, Catalan and Iberian classic tapas dishes are no longer considered exotic these days in London with an abundance of tapas bars in all corners of the city. However that also means the quality of the dishes are quite variable depending on the restaurant. One restaurant you don’t have to worry about in terms of food quality or service is the rustic, charming Thyme and Lemon in Islington.
The warm exposed brickwork and the shelves of red wines are what you might have come to expect from a Spanish tapas bar, but there are touches that hints at a more special venue then the dozens of chain restaurants that occupy Upper Street. Their main ‘chandelier’ which uses green wine bottles is a quirky touch, but it is when you get to the menu where Thyme and Lemon really excels.
It is all about sourcing exceptional ingredients here, so that even the simplest of dishes taste divine. My vegetarian guest said the steamed tenderstem broccoli with romesco sauce was the best broccoli he’s ever had and it was made more appetising with the kick from the romesco. Jamón Ibérico bellota were carefully hand-carved and sourced, whilst the escalivada had a welcoming hint of smokiness in the aubergine, peppers and onions.
For more filling dishes, their paella offerings are must-order options. Their vegetarian paella uses artichoke which gives the dish an added complexity in taste and texture. Whilst the classic squid ink paella has a slight glistening glow and is rich in umami flavours from the seafood. Both dishes are served in piping hot metal pots and the ideal main courses for a cold wintry night.
Their braised beef cheek dish is outrageously tender. If you think you’ve tried tender meat, wait until you try this sumptuous dish, which is also served with winter vegetables and a bed of mash, which soaks up all the brilliant cooking juices.
If you have any room left for desserts, then do try their crispy, freshly baked churros with chocolate sauce. It is served at just the right portion size, with 4 pieces of churros with a decent-sized pot of chocolate sauce.
Even if you don’t live in the Islington area, Thyme and Lemon is well worth travelling across town for, because as a tapas restaurant it is up there with the best.