El Pirata has been bringing a taste of Madrid to Mayfair for more than a quarter of a century. Celebrities such as Brian May and Johnny Depp have dined here, although the vibe is far more relaxed than most establishments in this part of town.
It’s easy to see why the place is so popular – the website claims around 90% of customers are regulars and I could well believe that.
First and foremost, El Pirata is a lovely place to enjoy food. The walls are covered with artworks – there must be at least 100 pictures up here, more than some galleries – and the mirror bar is a thing of true splendour.
It’s definitely worth arriving early to enjoy a drink on one of its stools. You might spot Fred Sirieix – a regular patron. Bonus points if you're on a date.
How’s the food?
Sturdy in both portions and flavour. You will not leave El Pirata hungry. Indeed you may need to be winched from your chair once desert has been and gone. I’m sure the staff will provide a winch if necessary: they’re very accommodating.
Order tapas plates to your heart’s content. Standout dishes? Well there’s Huevos rotos especiales (broken fried eggs, potatoes, chorizo, prawns, chilli peppers), which would also work as a breakfast for a day you really wanted to power through.
Lubina a la plancha (grilled seabass and broccolini) is a wonderfully cooked piece of fish served in a sauce that demands the ordering of more bread. Ditto Langostinos al chef (grilled king prawns in a tomato, garlic and white wine sauce).
Best of all might be Secreto de cerdo Ibérico (Iberian pork, potatoes, pipperade and rosemary). Cuts of pork on a bed of potatoes? Yes. Please.
I should note there’s also plenty for vegetarians – such as Champiñones y setas al ajillo (mushrooms in garlic and breadcrumbs) – although you might want to relax your status to pescatarian for the visit. Promise we won’t tell the fish.
What to drink?
A full-blooded Spanish Rioja! Or a fragrant Spanish Blanco if you’re feeling summary. Of one of El Pirata’s many cocktails. Or a sherry – my friend had a La Goya and pronounced it superb.
Neither of us were on the booze but I have no hesitation in assuring the reader that El Pirata will not fail you on that front. Just look at the bar for God’s sake!
Will it bankrupt me?
Amazingly for a Mayfair restaurant, no! There’s a variety of set menus – the highlight being the Introduction To Tapas sharing menu, £52 for two – catered to feed those on a budget, and feed them very well indeed.
À la carte will obviously up the ante somewhat but there’s no reason you should depart having broken three figures, bottle of wine included. Considering the food, and the area, that’s very good value indeed.
Anything else to note?
The name is Spanish for The Pirate. But you probably worked that one out, regardless of skipping those Spanish classes back in the day.
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5 - 6 Down St, W1J 7AQ; El Pirata