So. You're dining out. You're in a highly recommended little tapas bar in a slightly obscure part of London which was sold to you as "so authentic, even the napkins are Spanish." That includes the menu. And you haven't a clue what to order. In this situation, the phrase "I'll have what she's having..." would help but only if she knows what she's having. And that may not be the case. Well, Londonist wants you to have a good time and enjoy your dinner so read on for some tips and advice on what to order... in a tapas bar.
Tapas is basically bar food, small savoury dishes traditionally served on little plates meant to cover and protect glasses of wine from flies. It's a good way to sample lots of different dishes and as long as you're willing to share, a very sociable way to eat. Depending on how many people you are with and how hungry / flush you are feeling, order the tapas accordingly; in the extensive, gruelling, lip-smacking research Londonist has done in this area, it's as okay to linger over two small plates of patatas bravas and a glass of wine as it is to have a small scale royal tapas banquet with lashings of sangria. Any tapas bar that harrasses you into ordering a set amount of food with your drinks hasn't really got the point of what they are serving.
What's what? Some of the things that crop up on tapas menus will be familiar - chorizo, jamon Serrano, paella - but just in case you have any doubts or want to be sure of what you're ordering, read on...
al ajillo - with olive oil and garlic
a la romana - fried in batter
al vino - in wine
a la marinera - seafood cooked with garlic onions and white wine
aceitunas - olives
albondigas - meatballs
berenjena - aubergine
boquerones - anchovies, not the salty kind but usually served in vinegar
calamares - squid
callos - tripe
carabineiros - large prawns
champinones - mushrooms
empanada - slices of fish or meat pie
gambas - prawns
higado - liver
mejillones - mussels
mollejas - sweetbreads
morcilla - black pudding
orejas - pigs' ears
patatas alioli- potatoes in garlic mayonnaise
patatas bravas - fried potatoes in spicy tomato sauce
patatas a lo pobre - fried potato mixed with sliced egg and sometimes chorizo
pimientos - sweet peppers
ques - cheese
Manchego - ewes' milk cheese
sepia - cuttle fish
sesos - brains
Londonist recommends Rebato's , 169 South Lambeth Road, London SW8: always packed with happy diners including those who travel from far away to enjoy the changing daily menu and excellent wine (and also where MI6 personnel like to get pissed and lose things).
For central London, try Navarro's , 67 Charlotte Street,London, W1T 4PH. Book a table in advance - this place is packed most evenings, which is always a good sign of the food you'll (eventually) get.
And also the Goya tapas bars at 2 Eccleston Place, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9NE near Victoria Coach Station and a second one nearby at 34 Lupus Street, Pimlico, London, SW1V 3EB. These two tapas bars are always popular and warmly recommended for atmosphere and ambience as much as the food and wine.
¡Comer con gusto!