Does anybody know how to get a seat in a restaurant that doesn’t take bookings? We turned up at 6.30 on a Friday and already there was an hour-long waiting list. At least they take your number so you can go elsewhere for a drink. I do hate this whole no-reservation bullshit though. What is London’s obsession with it these days? It’s not Spain where waiting for your table outside with a glass of red is actually pleasurable. It’s East London, pissing with rain at the start of February.
We were given the best stools up at the bar, overlooking the chef who was slapping everything on the griddle and moving to Fleetwood Mac (with some style). It’s hard not fall in love with the casual and warm buzz and there’s enough character in the paired back decor so that you don’t think it has been designed by a tobacco rolling, tattooed hipster, like just about every restaurant these days.
To start things off my partner helped herself to the nuts on the counter, mistaking them for a Spanish alternative to a bread basket, instead of being for the chef to garnish the dishes with. She soon realised her mistake when her hand was competing with the chef’s for a walnut.
The bread basket (£2.50) was needed to mop up all the sauces with, and there was a trio of salt dips and good olive oil at hand to get things going. The little bread sticks were a bit pointless though.
The tortilla (£4.00) wasn’t the most generous slice I’ve had and I prefer it when it’s served hot when I’m having it for dinner. I’m yet to try a tortilla that can rival the ones they knock up at Barrafina.
The padrón peppers (£4.50) were great to munch on, especially dipped in those salts. It was a shame I didn’t get any hot ones.
The spiced lamb, aubergine, yoghurt & pine nuts (£6.50) has a slightly Middle Eastern feel to it, with the pomegranate seeds and mint sprinkled on top. There was a lovely balance to this dish, and plenty of textures.
The octopus & saffron potatoes (£7.00) were also good, but there could have been a little more octopus. A good stodgy seafood dish though, laced with olive oil.
The chicharrones de cadiz – pork belly, cumin & lemon (£6.50) were perfectly cooked little cubes with lashings of salt. This is the stuff heart attacks are made of. That’s what I like about Spanish cuisine, it focuses on the flavour, not the effect on the waistline.
The grilled tetilla cheese, membrillo & walnuts (£6.00) is one of best small plates I’ve had in London. The membrillo is a quince jelly and it works so well with the cheese, cutting through the saltiness to give a real sweet hit. Wedged inside some of the bread this made one of the most pleasurable mouthfuls I’ve had in a long time.
To finish the crema catalana (£5.50) was a small but really indulgent dessert. The sugar coating on top had been glazed into a dark and brittle caramel, and beneath the custard was smooth with a nice hint of spice and citrus.
32 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE