When I first arrived in London, like many cash-strapped locals, my first memories of Brindisa revolve around the Borough Market restaurant’s chorizo and roasted red pepper sandwich stall. It was my go-to cheap weekend brunch for years, until the queues got too frustrating and I took my appetite, like many savvy locals, to nearby Maltby Street Market.
Regardless, I’ve grown up since those days – and so has Brindisa. Having just reopened following an extensive facelift, their Rupert Street venue is all marble dining counters and modern hacienda decor. I guess it has to be, located as it is a few doors down from The Palomar and XU – the latest stylish offer from the Bao guys.
Yes, just a bubblewrap waffle’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, and minutes from the increasingly gentrified Berwick Street (whoever imagined Alan Yau would be buying up big on this once delightfully grungy Soho laneway?!), this little strip is fast-becoming a super-cool restaurant destination. Just don’t tell the tourists – this area should be the reward for Londoners who are still brave enough to think Zone 1 is a great place for a night out.
Offering up an ode to the asadors of Castilian-Leonese cooking, it’s not surprising a large part of Brindisa’s spacious open kitchen is dedicated to charcoal-grilling and roasting meat. The pigs eat the acorns (as evidenced by the jars of bellota that are dotted around the tales) and you eat the pigs. And really, you can’t look past the Senorio de Montanera meat board – which consists of Iberico pork in every permutation you could imagine – collar, solomillo, sobrasada and morcilla. It’s juicy, tender and tangy all in one go. Served with grilled red onion, a really gutsy, garlicky alioli and romesco sauce, it’s best to order a salad on the side to ward off the meat sweats.
Ensalada de melocotones was the winner on our visit – sweet grilled peaches with peppery rocket and creamy goat’s cheese quenelles.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves – like any good Spanish wine and sherry bar, there are plenty of seasonal tapas (small plates) and picoteos (nibbles) to get you started. Smoked, salty padron peppers – some with a little heat behind them – and homemade iberico de bellota popcorn with jamon dust make for great beer food. And, if only the weather had been slightly better, we would have made our way through the cured meat and artisan cheese quite happily (by the way, was anyone else aware that they have a Brindisa Balham Cheese Cave where their queso matures?) probably with a glass of something blush-pink.
And then, when your savoury levels are sated – it will be the patatas bravas wot did it – it’s time for the surprisingly light Tarta Santiago de la Casa – homemade Galician almond tart with vanilla ice cream.
Sure, summer might be over, but this little slice of Spain beings a splash of sunshine to London’s latest food hotspot.
18-20 Rupert Street
London W1D 6DF