When we spotted a new tapas restaurant opening up right next door, we decided to check it out to see if we would be pleasantly surprised, considering that really tasty tapas is one of those rare finds in London despite the sheer number of places. We have tried a handful, including some much-hyped ones and were often left unimpressed. Thus, came the idea of writing about a few and seeing what the fuss is all about.
The places we tried were the ever popular Dehesa, just off Carnaby Street, the famous Barrafina that have branches in Soho and Covent Garden, the Shoreditch branch of Tapas Revolution and Tramontana in Hoxton.
Tapas is best enjoyed in a casual, cozy setting with tiny tables and lots of chatter around. In that respect, pretty much all of these make the cut. Our least favourite in this sense was Barrafina in Covent Garden as, since there are no tables, you all sit in bar chairs pretty much squashed in and the thin line between cozy and uncomfortable is crossed. Dehesa is a very cozy little restaurant with lots of tables in a small space but manages to be intimate without becoming over-crowded. Tramontana is the biggest of the four and the most suitable to accommodate large parties but lacks any real ambiance or welcoming feeling when you walk into what is a well designed restaurant. Tapas Revolution is again a small space but it’s cute with dim lights and there’s a bar, as well as tables scattered around, they did a good job of outfitting it but it still feels very much like a restaurant that is part of a small chain - which is exactly what it is.
Dehesa beats the rest by a long mile here. Despite probably having the most central location and being a part of a restaurant group, it has the most original menu compared to the others. The dishes comprise of a more modern take on traditional tapas with influences from both Italy and Spain which is a massive turn on if you like to try out new things whilst retaining the appeal of eating tapas style. The plates are small but the food is so rich with flavour, and the presentation is very easy on the eye, that you'll feel full on 4-5 plates for two people. Barrafina is the second best option with a tasty selection of more straightforward traditional dishes. There was nothing special about Tapas Revolution, which wasn’t bad but lacked any sort of wow factor We were surprised to see the good reviews given to Tramontana since our experience was rather dismal with very average food that you are better off cooking at home yourself.
It may not be fair to diss Tapas Revolution just yet since they have only recently opened up but at this point you can definitely see that things are yet to settle. The staff are lovely but being seated and getting the right bill is still a struggle. Dehesa ticks all the boxes again, wonderful, fast service from knowledgeable waiters. We didn't have any problems at Barrafina either, the staff was quick to take our order and help with the menu. Tramontana is the loser since, on a busy night, it really is a pain to be able to order anything at all. When we were there, a good portion of our food didn’t arrive for about an hour so we ended up cancelling and went home on a half-empty stomach.
All the restaurants we chose to review fell into a similar price range to keep this fair, however, when it comes to value and quality for money Dehesa wins this section hands down. The quality of the ingredients, skillful cooking and wonderful presentation are worth every penny. The loser of the bunch is Tramontana which is quite expensive already but with the quality of the food and service being a let down it seems even more so. Barrafina and Tapas Revolution are at similar prices for the core tapas food you find everywhere but Barrafina has some more exotic, interesting and expensive options available.