It has been four and a half months since we dined out in a restaurant, ever since the novel Coronavirus pandemic began. As we live on the outskirts of London, we had been hesitant to venture out, as using public transport was unavoidable. But a kind invite from one of our favourite Spanish restaurants and tapas bars, El Pirata, in the London neighbourhood of Mayfair, was enough of a nudge to get us out of hiding!
We were nervous and awkward at first, but Jose, the manager, and his wonderful team immediately put us at ease with their warm demeanour.
To err on the side of caution as well as to enjoy the sunshine and the summery breeze, we decided to sit outdoors. We kicked off with a Mai Tai and a Mojito, both wonderfully executed. The Mai Tai had some lovely citrus and tropical notes to balance the boozy depth. We were also pleased with the Mojito, which had a decent amount of rum and was refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
We sampled a selection of tapas that included:
- Jamón Ibérico.
- Pan con Tomate/ajo | Toasted bread topped with fresh tomato, olive oil, garlic.
- Padron | Small green peppers from Galicia.
- Grilled Artichoke hearts.
- Arroz Negro con Calamares | Black rice & squid.
- Pulpo al Pirata | Octopus, potatoes, olive oil, paprika.
- Gambas al pil-pil | Prawns in olive oil, garlic & dried hot chilli peppers.
- Croquetas de jamón ibérico | Homemade Iberian ham croquettes.
- Chuletitas de cordero | Grilled lamb cutlets.
- Chorizo al vino | Spanish sausage in red wine sauce.
- Tortilla | Spanish omelette with potatoes & onions.
- Patatas Bravas | Deep fried potatoes in chilli & garlic sauce.
- Crema Catalana | Creme brûlée with crunchy caramelised top.
- Tarta Santiago | Traditional Galician cake made with almonds, served with vanilla ice cream.
The grilled artichoke hearts were a wonderfully textural dish and went very well with the accompanying aioli. The ham was brilliant and of superior quality. The pan con tomate was nicely oily, the bread good but not overly done. Padron peppers are always a firm favourite in our family, but sadly we didn’t stumble onto any spicy ones. The Pulpo al Pirata was another good dish; great flavours that tickle the taste buds. I am not the biggest fan of croquettes but the ham croquettes here would be a serious contender to turn me. They were warm and cheesy with the occasional meaty hit of Iberico ham. In short, simply bloody marvellous! Both the lamb cutlets and the sausage are delectable meat dishes. But my absolute favourites and must-order recommendations (if you like seafood) are the Gambas Pil Pil and the black rice; both were sensational dishes. Make sure you order some bread to mop up all that seafood oil. Both the patatas bravas and tortilla were decent to bulk up the meal, although we found the tortilla underwhelming and missing that oozy egg centre when cut open. The desserts were a sweet little way to polish off a good meal.
El Pirata’s tapas game is really strong. I am a particularly big fan of their fish, seafood and vegetarian selection. The food has lots of flavour, good ingredients and is full of heart.
In terms of COVID-19 measures:
- All staff wore masks at all times.
- Sanitisers were placed at strategic points.
- Outdoor seating is available.
- Reduced covers inside.
- Socially distanced tables.
- Tables thoroughly cleaned after each use.
El Pirata are open Wednesday to Saturday and are also participating in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme in August. One of our favourite and regular things to order is their Introduction To Tapas Set Menu, which is usually £24.50pp, but with the scheme you can enjoy a selection of their tapas for just £10. Considering the quality, quantity and location, it is a steal!
El Pirata is a great place for a date night. It equally works if you are in big group and looking for a reasonably priced place in Mayfair doing dependably delicious food. They have recently revamped their interiors downstairs.
If you are not ready to dine out yet, you can always takeaway for a lovely Spanish-themed picnic in nearby Hyde Park or you can order online via Deliveroo.
Thank you El Pirata for making our first restaurant experience post-lockdown so warm, happy and pleasant and for providing a safe space for us to enjoy.
Coincidentally, our first (and only) holiday this year was Madrid, where we gorged on delicious tapas. Lockdown happened a few weeks later after our return. To think that our first meal post-lockdown was a Spanish experience made me tear up a bit. We love food, we love restaurants and we love Spanish food and it was just amazing to get back into the dining scene with this soulful cuisine. We were uplifted after our meal here and it felt good to know that we could safely start going out again.
N.B. I was invited to review El Pirata and our food and drinks were complimentary. I was not paid to visit nor am I under any contractual obligation to write this blog post.