As Spain languishes with its woes in the Eurozone, London is being spoilt by a slew of new tapas restaurants. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the Barrafina alumni branched out and tried things for themselves.
Nemanja Borjanovic and Melody Adam shave opened a basque tapas bar on Seymour place. Tomasz Baranski former head chef at Barrafina is on the stoves . The Barrafina DNA is firmly in place but he has taken things in a different direction with that focus on Northern Spain drawing on his time in San Sebastian.
Seymour Place has seen something of a sea change over the past few years. As anyone who’s wandered round the roads behind Selfridges will attest, “There’s money in these here hills”. Putting aside the likes of Texture, Locanda Locatelli and some more than commendable middle eastern restaurants, the area has also been something of a culinary wasteland. Restauranteurs have taken note, Vinoteca opening its second branch on the same street a year or so back . Portman Estates perhaps keen to mimic the success of neighbours Howard De Walden with Marylebone road , have in the parlance started to “create a street”. I’d wager its set to continue as the Portman march on with the creation of the ‘Portman Village’, those newly vacated A1/A2 properties opposite won’t be vacant for long.
The good news you can book (for those put off by Barrafina and the queues this is news indeed). The 30 seater room perhaps speaks more perhaps to Scandinavia than the Basque country. Wood panelling, Scandinavian ash chairs and white clean tables. Some thought has gone into the design, this is a room that is a pleasure to sit in. Centre stage is the white marble-topped tapas bar which sadly you can’t book and will be for drop-ins. Clearly this is where the action is at and if you want to see the chefs at work and indeed chat to them you’ll have to chance your arm in bagging one of these seats.
The wine list, predominately Spanish , is reasonable with plenty by the glass and with some interesting choices from northern Spain. Traditional cider and the slightly fizzy white Txakoli, rarities in London, reinforce the basque theme. There is no need to be snooty about the house wines here either, which is no surprise given the owners background, a glass of the £3 house white an aromatic Macabeo is a steal in all honesty.
It’s clearly been popular only open a week and the Classic Basque Pil-Pil Cod cheeks and Pork shoulder had sold out. But we were all ready hearing positive muttering about these in the busy room so a reason to return. The staff though a touch nervous in these early weeks were charming throughout. Add to that the fact they brought extra bread to mop up those garlicky prawn juices was only going to be a positive.
Some good bread and oil and some faultless Padron peppers kick things off
Followed by the Kintoa – Saucisson Chorizo ham selection. Clearly there is good sourcing here but whilst good, I did feel this was relatively ordinary at £10:50, I’d go for the Jabugo next time.
The foie gras with PX reduction and walnuts looked the part and was a generous slice of foie for the money, though I thought some of the flavour of the PX reduction was lost in the richness of the other elements of the dish.
The Ciprones and Prawns are more than close relations to their Barrafina counterparts, but if it aint broke don’t fix it hard to see how you could improve on them anyway.
The octopus pintxos with a a spicy basque marinade- extremely tender octopus lifted this from the ordinary.
The bacalao tortilla made to order per barrafina, comes with that runny centre and the salt cod adds a nice basque twist to what is without doubt a classic
To finish a chocolate mousse with orange zest – I’m not sure I’d call it a mousse it was too dense for that. But it was delicious, thinly paired candied zest, chocolate orange crumb and with a lick of the delicious olive oil was a great riff on the classic chocolate orange pairing.
In conclusion another great addition to the London Tapas scene and there’s little doubt this place will be popular. The menu will continue to evolve over the next few weeks and with the seasons. Whether they’ll be queuing out the door Barrafina style remains to be seen – though I think it’s a safe bet it’ll be a hot ticket over the next few weeks.
Donostia, 10 Seymour Place, London. W1
Around £75 for 2 with wine and service.