Glass sits down for dinner at El Pirata of Mayfair

LOCATED in the heart of Mayfair, El Pirata, has been serving informal and traditional Spanish tapas since 1994. Glass was intrigued to see what this restaurant had to offer from its dinner menu on a chilly winter evening in London. We were certainly not disappointed as this quaint established ticked every box from fresh, delicious and inspiring tapas plates to an incredibly hospitable and homely atmosphere – El Pirata is a real find and not one to be overlooked in the hubbub of shiny, new restaurant openings in the capital.

El Pirata RestaurantEl Pirata of Mayfair exterior

From the minute you arrive, you feel welcomed and comforted by every aspect of El Pirata. The décor is a perfect combination of an authentic Spanish tapas bar and a cosy London pub, with grand, dark wood furnishings, wrought iron staircases and Spanish paintings adorning the walls. The décor is inspired by many of the Spanish team’s memories of typical tapas bars from their hometowns and this sense of authenticity and homeliness really translates in the dining experience.

The restaurant’s bar is as buzzing as the tables, with couples ordering small plates with wine in a casual, informal manner, which makes you feel incredibly at ease and at home. The service, however, is far from casual, with attentive and knowledgeable staff eager to explain dishes and recommend the best options, for which I was very grateful for, as the menu is large and one does feel spoiled for choice.

El Pirata RestaurantEl Pirata of Mayfair Interior

The kitchen, led by Head Chef Rosendo Simbana, is renowned for cooking some of the most delicious tapas dishes in London, so my guest and I decided to opt for tapas to share. It was recommended we choose 6-8 dishes between us, which turned out to be the ideal amount. Before we had a chance to decide on these plates, we were served a tasty starter selection of padron peppers, indulgent jamon serrano and toasted bread topped with fresh tomato, olive oil and garlic. The tomato-topped bread was an absolute delight on the palate, yet so incredibly simple. It was obvious from the starters that everything is incredibly fresh and intelligently put together, without being too elaborate.

El Pirata RestaurantFood served at El Pirata

El Pirata does the traditional tapas dishes exceptionally well such as patatas bravas, jamon  croquettes and a truly sensational prawn pil pil. However it was the more unusual dishes which really wowed us, in particular the avocado and orange salad which was a flavour combination I was unfamiliar with. The salad was crisp and clean and an excellent palette cleanser before some of the slightly heavier flavourings of garlic and chilli. The tartness of the orange was a lovely contrast to the creaminess of the avocado.


El Pirata RestaurantOn the menu – Pimientos de Padron at El Pirata

Another stand-out dish was the black rice and squid that was personally recommended to us by our waiter. The flavours were a little unusual and surprising but after a few mouthfuls, I could really appreciate the saltiness of the squid ink which matched beautifully with the texture of the rice.

El Pirata RestaurantPaella Marinera at El Pirata

For dessert, we shared the homemade chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, which was so indulgent, yet light, it was the perfect way to end the meal. El Pirata’s wine offering is extensive and our dinner was complemented by a clean, bright Altun Rioja Crianza. Fruity and fresh, the wine was light and refreshing – a tasty accompaniment to the bursts of Spanish flavourings from the tapas. All of the dishes were exquisitely presented and like the flavourings of the tapas – simple and unfussy. Perfect portion sizes mean you will not feel uncomfortably full and allow you to sample more of everything, which is always a bonus. Alongside tapas, El Pirata also offers larger, traditional dishes including a variety of paellas and Cochinillo à la traditional (roasted suckling pig with potatoes in a traditional style).


El Pirata RestaurantAltun Rioja Crianza – some of the delicious wine available at El Pirata

My experience at El Pirata was thoroughly enjoyable and one I would absolutely recommend if you are looking for unpretentious, fresh and authentic Spanish flavours at reasonable prices. El Pirata’s standards certainly have not slipped in the last twenty years and is definitely worth a visit to witness the exciting flavour combinations and cosy ambience. The restaurant claims to feel more like Madrid than London and this was absolutely my feeling during my experience as once the doors close, you feel transported into a little nook of Spain with delightful smells and tastes rousing your senses.   

by Heather Doughty


Further information on El Pirata can be found here 

El Pirata, 5-6 Down Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 7AQ

Tel: 020 7491 3810