My heart was abducted by El Pirata!
I must give some credit to Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. If it weren’t for the show, I wouldn’t have heard about this El Bulli trained chef Omar Allibhoy who runs an amazing Spanish kitchen at El Pirata de Tapas in Westbourne Grove. The restaurant had been opened for over a year and had attracted attention from the Michelin people. Myself, being a zone-stuck foodie–meaning being stuck in my Central London zone and rarely eating beyond E1 and W1–this kinda of TV did help me branch out.
I went with quite a bit of enthusiasm. The place situated on Westbourne Grove looked nothing particularly exclusive with massive glass window at the entrance. The dining room spoke high street than personal. You’d probably want to go there for a friendly gathering rather than a sumptuous romantic meal. The menu, which I found extensive, featured Spanish tapas dishes with innovative twists.
Having a philia for Spanish food and a stomach of a gorilla, I asked for four different dishes to try. Ordering, indeed, was a struggle. There were so many interesting dishes to choose from!! I tried to mix and match dishes I saw on the telly with my favourite and traditional Spanish dish. At the end, I ended up with:
(1) Octopus Carpaccio, Clementine Caviar, Capers and Paprika.
It was a pretty and huge dish!! The octopus was very pleasant, slightly chewy as it should be. The clementine caviar added acidity and extra texture to the dish, whilst capers provided some occasional bursts of sourness and saltiness. I still found this dish to be on the oily side, but the combination of flavours was thoughtful. Just needed a bit of precise seasoning.
Before I had the chance to finish my Octopus, two more dishes were dropped in front of me. I was shell-shocked!! I considered myself a fast eater but how in a million years I could eat three dishes at the same time, take pictures and finish them all before they got cold? Impossible…
(2) Migas, Fried Bread, Poached Egg and Grapes
Migas was a sort of Spanish breakfast made from leftover bread. I never came across one in London, but it was my favourite when I went to Barcelona. I’d also had a 3-Michelin-starred reinterpretation of Migas at Can Fabes. This one at El Pirata de Tapas was, GOSH!!, even better. The bread was very crispy and stuck together–well imagine Crunchy Nuts Bites!!–once I pricked the poached egg and the gooey yolk went all over. There was a mild kick from the paprika and many mouthfuls of juicy grapes. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
(3) Six Hour Braised Pork Belly, Red Wine Pear, Parsnip Puree
As I was slurping the Migas and left my Pork Belly to get cold, my other savoury dish arrived. What the f**k!? Did I tell them to speed up the food without knowing? So I felt pressured to move on to the Pork Belly. The dish looked immaculately Michelin. The meat was tender, though it lost a bit of the porky smell, and was a match made in heaven with the sweet and spiced poached pear. What’s even more amazing about this dish was the extra topping of bite-to-crackle skin, which not only added texture but saltiness to this thoughful combination.
(4) Classic Tortilla
Yes, this was the dish that I had to leave to get cold so I could spend time indulge in my pork belly. To me, it’s a sin not to have a Tortilla if I went for Spanish. This one was lovely, but not my favourite. Let’s talk about the good thing. It was packed with finely chopped potatoes, served runny. Comparing this one to my favourite at Barrafina, I found the runniness to be rather two-dimensional, potatoes and eggs. The flavours of onions, potatoes and eggs fused themselves better at Barrafina. Perhaps there were a bit too much potatoes in the El Pirata version, or perhaps it was the coldness that made this dish taste a little too stodgy and lacking depth. That said, judging the dish by itself, it was a very good Tortilla.
I resisted my urge to get one more dish and asked for the desserts menu. Again, it was doing my head in, albeit in a very good way. I loved choices and the choices at El Pirata were to die for. A few minutes of bickering in my own head, I settled for Crema Catalana Two Textures, and here it was:
The server described the layers in detail. The first texture was that of traditional light custard toppled by a thin layer of caramel. The other texture was the Crema Catalana in form of foam with crunchy sugar scattered on top. To taste the most out of this dish, I was recommended to tuck the spoon into the very bottom of the glass.
So I did.
It was a creamy ecstasy–not in a sexual way but even better. The two textures combined became this smooth twister of custard fantasy. The fragrant and sweetness from the caramel and the crunch from the sugar revived my taste bud. It was faultless. I could seriously ask for the second one, but the little voice in my head mimicking my PT’s voice barked I shouldn’t. Maybe not, until my next trip to El Pirata!!
The only not-so-brilliant thing about my meal was that the dishes came pretty much at the same time and I seriously couldn’t stomach them all before they got cold. I went in and out of this restaurant in less than an hour. That’s insanely NOT a dining experience, which was the only thing I could mouth some foul comments on this place really. The overall service was engaging; nobody was facebooking as it was shown on Ramsay’s Best Kitchen. With the bill coming down at just about £40 pounds, including a glass of red wine, this was just one of the very best meals I’d had in London recently!
My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.
EL PIRATA DE TAPAS
115 Westbourne Grove
Tel. 020 7727 5000