While London is swept up in a small plates fever, sometimes it’s a treat to go right back to where it began – tapas. El Pirata, set within a maze of tiny Mayfair streets, has been doing authentic Spanish small plates since 1994 and it has more than weathered the storm. With an astonishing selection of Spanish gins (look out for Nordes, a rare Galician gin made using pomace from Albarino grapes) and the constant rhythm of the cocktail shaker coming from the mirrored bar, it’s easy to get distracted (for a moment at least) from the extensive tapas selection. Expect charred yet juicy padron peppers, fluffy tortilla and plates of the best Jamon Bellota de Iberico this side of Andalucia. Just leave room for the incredible calamares con arroz negro – it’s worth every ink-stained tooth. This Madrileno-esque gem might be in Mayfair but prices are far from it – two tapas dishes, bread, alioli and a glass of wine or beer costs £10.25 between midday and 6pm and ten tapas dishes in the evening ring in at just £23.50 per person. And if paella’s your weapon of choice, book for Mondays, when it’s all-you-can-eat (plus mixed olives, pan con alioli and sangria) for £15 at lunch, or £18 at dinner. Bye-bye Monday blues. Hands sticky from gambas al pil-pil and lips rouged with sangria, El Pirata is enough to make you book your next Spanish fiesta.
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