At a food conference in Madrid, the best ham croqueta in the world was declared to be made by Diego Hernandez, chef at the Asturian restaurant Regueiro, on the Atlantic coast of Spain.
While not wishing to question his title we can't help but wonder what would have happened if he had been competing against some of the top croquetas in London.
London has seen a dramatic increase in the number of good Spanish restaurants and general influence of Spain and its cooking, so more and more restaurants are serving top quality, made-from-scratch croquetas.
So, what is a croqueta exactly?
Essentially a thick bechamel base cooked for a very long time, with added flavouring of meat, cheese or vegetables, the sauce is left to cool, and is then shaped and breaded and fried.
Croquetas at their best are wobbly, creamy, crispy pieces of heaven, but at their worst can be claggy, doughy, greasy sections of wallpaper paste.
Sadly, as more and more tapas bars in Spain buy in frozen croquetas made in massive batches on industrial estates, examples of wallpaper paste are becoming increasingly common. In London, however, we are far more fortunate, having a number of good restaurants hand-making croquetas with real skill.
London’s best croquetas
As the first tapas restaurant in the UK to gain a Michelin star you know to expect great things from chef Nieves Barragan. The croquetas here are everything you would expect from such a famed restaurant. With just the right amount of seductive wobble encased in a warm crisp shell, you'll be wanting more within minutes — if you haven't over-ordered on everything else, that is.
Barrafina, 54 Frith Street, W1D 4SL
Varying styles of croquetas are a highlight of the tiny, ever-changing menu at this popular Bermondsey Street restaurant from well-loved Spanish chef José Pizarro. Depending on the day you can have salt cod, ham, blue cheese or creamy Torta del Casar and honey. All of them are delicious, and all worth a second order.
José, 104 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB
Home of the famous "Ibérica Jamon croqueta" executive chef Nacho Manzano, himself a judge on the panel to decide the best ham croqueta in the world, uses olive oil instead of the more common butter in his croquetas. The result is a slightly more unusual texture and a great taste.
Ibérica Marylebone, 195 Great Portland Street, W1W 5PS
Ibérica Canary Wharf, 1 Canada Square, E14 5AB
Ibérica Farringdon, 89 Turnmill Street, EC1M 5QU
#4 Capote y Toros
One of the colony of Cambio de Tercio group restaurants on Old Brompton Road, Capote y Toros is a must-visit for sherry lovers — not only do they sell over 100 varieties of the stuff, but a lot of the tapas dishes are cooked in it too. Have the ham croquetas with a glass of fino and you'll easily convince yourself that you are in Seville rather than South Ken.
Capote y Toros, 157 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0LJ
With their executive chef, Boqueria — with branches near Brixton and in Battersea — has really upped its game in the croqueta stakes. Their chicken and ham croquetas have just the right amount of crunch and give, and are a joy to eat with a glass of cava.
Boqueria, 192 Acre Lane, SW2 5UL
Boqueria, 278 Queenstown Road, SW8 4LT
Relaunched in 2014 with food overseen by Michelin-starred chef Mikael Jonsson of Hedone in Chiswick, this Soho wine bar often features croquetas on the menu. Be they mushroom, cod and cucumber or chicken they are always that little bit different and certainly worth a bite.
Antidote, 12A Newburgh Street, W1F 7RR
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.
For more top tapas, see our pick of London's Best Spanish Restaurants.