All reader reviews by Barry from the States

El Pirata

El Pirata of Mayfair is without question a top-tier restaurant for anyone in search of authentic Spanish food. It's that simple.

We visit on an early December Friday night and the place is abuzz ( reservations are strongly reccomended ). As much as we want to try something off of the main menu, we could not resist building our evening entirely around those tasty tapas. El Pirata offers a couple of tapas tasting menus which are a good choice for those new to tapas. Otherwise, sit down and scour the tapas menu & create your own list of treats to enjoy. We ourselves did the Santa Claus thing -- we each made a list and compared them . . . fortunately we did not disagree very much & we created a great meal.

Our favorites?

Don't miss the pimientos de padron . . . likewise the almejas - muscles (both on the special tapas list ). We also could not resist the jamon iberico negra ( at £17 a bit pricy, but you gotta pay the man if you want the best ham they can offer ). The olives are flavorful & to die for. The 3 color salad ( avacado, mozarella & tomato ) is another nice choice for the palate. The calamares a la plancha were also delicious ( hint: just order the plain bread with garlic butter as you'll do lots of dipping in the various sauces ). We also enjoyoed the fabada ( bean stew and chorizo sausage ).

I guess that you can tell that really enjoyed our meal at el Pirata. The service was prompt and attentive. When they did not have the bottle of wine we wanted our capable server reccomends Val Tosca; a perfect choice for our tapas journey. Deserts are equally inviting.

If we lived in London, El Pirata would be a regular destination as one could sit at the bar with a glass of Tio Pepe & snack on a tapa or two before heading off to dinner or the theater.

I can't reccomend El Pirata highly enough. Go out and create your own tapa adventure. Obviously, our meal was a bit expensive given some of our choices, but you can easily craft your bill to your bill to fit your dining budget.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10

The Real Greek (Bankside)

My wife & I visit London 2 or 3 times a year & Real Greek Bankside is one of the places we like to stop for a bite & a bottle of wine. I'm a bit surprised at some of the vitrolic reviews here, as it doesn't describe the sort of experience that we've had in the past, or on our most recent visit in early December.

What do we find during our most recent December visit? Good food, nice wine, very attentive service, and a pleasant atmosphere to relax in. We prefer table seats & not those stools as your meal is more casual and intimate at a table, so I could see someone criticizing the ambiance from those stool seats.

As to the food. We elect to eat the meses ( so I can't speak to the current state of the souvalaki ). We enjoy them thoroughly. What do I reccomend? Play with meses menu and build an experience around a bottle of wine. The olives are outstanding, as is the new dish, loukaniko ( which is a hot dish with sausage & large beans ). The looukaniko & the Santarini fava made for great dipping with the fresh flat bread. The tiropitakia with feta & spinich are also a tasty choice. The dolamades are as Greek as you can get. We also try the skewer gambas which are flavorfully grilled. A couple of other meses as well, but I just can't remember their names ( a red pepper mese of sorts). Deserts are tasty & a nice way to wind down followed by some espresso.

Is it value for the money? It depends upon how one defines value, especially in a recession. We felt we got a nice meal for our US dollars. Then again, we enjoy the walk along southbank to and from the restaurant, especially on these dark winter evenings.

Once again, no surprise that a variety of aesthetic opinions exist, but great surprise at how negatively some folks respond to a restaurant which at the very least does a decent job and in our own subjective opinion is a darned nice place to pop into on occassion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8

The Real Greek (Bankside)

We recently enjoy another nice meal at Real Greek Bankside. It's a great location to people watch from. They've tweaked the menu a bit but it remains pretty much the same food fare as on previous visits. This time we chow down on the meses over a bottle of wine.

As usual, the food is tasty & the service good. So we accomplish one of our goals on this London visit. As to value for the money. We're here eating on US dollars so every meal is an "ocuh" experience for us. Prices look in-line for UK pocketbooks however.

Friday, May 23, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8

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