Iberico cheeks. The sordid thrill of seeing those two words on a menu saw a casual read of the menu turn into a frantic grabbing of the last two stools.
This sherry and tapas bar from old hand Abel Lusa of Cambio de Tercio, personifies the flourish of the matador’s cape (capote), and the dazzling colours of the flamenco dancer, the space a garish blend of pink, red and yellow. Influence of the bull (toros) is all around this tiny venue, and on the art hung on the bright walls. A clattery atmosphere jangles the nerves, but adds a welcome note of bonhomie and Andalucian style.
The quality and execution of the dishes belies the lowly “sherry and tapas bar” moniker. This is serious quality food of real panache and confidence, a nod to the other venues which are part of the group. The experience of an established restaurant group is gold dust in this frenzied atmosphere of relentless London openings – and it shows.
Iberico Cheeks “Al Oloroso Dulce” – Silken Iberico cheeks steeped in Oloroso sherry, nestling on indecently textured potato, invigorated by a backnote of peppery olive oil, is a show stopper. Even more joyful at £6.50 for two glorious nuggets.
Carpaccio of Codfish – Served at perfect room temperature, studded with zesty orange pieces and black olives, pretty and lovingly presented. Classy stuff.
Iberico Charcuterie – Top grade “Cinco Jotas” is expertly carved, a groaning plate of selected cuts of Iberico with lomo, chorizo, and jamón is stupid value at £12.
Galician Octopus, Sweet Paprika – A refined, plated version of the familiar Pulpo a la Gallega, often served on a wooden board, but all the elements are there, smoked paprika, potato, punctuated with shards of sea salt. Anchovies marinated in Palo Cortado vinaigrette are a palate enlivening perfect appetiser, making salivatory instincts kick into overdrive. Pass me that Manzanilla.
Then there is the sherry list. Sherry is now firmly back in the groove on the London dining scene – this list trumps them all.
Wine is relegated to the back of the list and plays second fiddle, the sherries covering all bases with a commendable Palo Cortado offering.
Wines are infuriatingly presented, amongst slap dash label images, confusing presentation, and is painful to navigate. No matter, sherry is the star here. We hoover up a couple of bottles of La Goya Manzanilla at £13 for a half-bottle, and are happy simply with this.
The night we visit there are chinks in service, the result of inexperience and mild panic – we forgive all for the sweet smiles and genuine enthusiasm.
On the air-kissing, Prada wearing, Maserati driving, stretch of Old Brompton Road, this is a welcome blast of Spain from the shores of Jerez.
The memory of those silken Iberico cheeks remains….
The Folkestone Wine Company
The Fordwich Arms
Where The Light Gets In
The Mash Inn
Grand Trunk Road
The Laughing Heart
German Doner Kebab
Black Axe Mangal
House of Ho
One Leicester St
Duck & Waffle
10 Greek Street
Capote Y Toros
Pollen St Social