El Pi­rata

Where London - - Dining -

Lon­don’s finest clas­sic Span­ish ta­pas bar and res­tau­rant. Ac­cord­ing to one lead­ing res­tau­rant critic: ‘El Pi­rata of­fers me ev­ery­thing I look for in a res­tau­rant. Fine food, ex­cel­lent choice, com­fort­able sur­round­ings, mar­vel­lous ser­vice and a bill at the end that doesn’t give me in­di­ges­tion!’ Add to this its award-win­ning wine list, and you will ap­pre­ci­ate what makes this one of the cap­i­tal’s finest ta­pas bars and restau­rants, as ev­i­denced by the ac­co­lades it has re­ceived from 3 renowned guides: Za­gat, Har­den’s and Square Meal. Mon-Fri noon-11.30pm, Sat 6pm-11.30pm, closed Sun.

5-6 Down St, W1J 7AQ T: 020-7491 3810/7409 1315 www.elpi­rata.co.uk Sta­tion: Hyde Park Cor­ner/Green Park

This place is blessed with space,’ smiles gen­eral man­ager Emily Spar­ling (pic­tured) in­side So­phie’s Steak­house & Bar in Covent Gar­den, one of the West End’s most fa­mous restau­rants and a pop­u­lar venue for watch­ing this month’s Rugby World Cup (18 Sep-31 Oct). ‘We’ve got a big screen at one end of the res­tau­rant where peo­ple can book to watch key games. The res­tau­rant is big so peo­ple never wait long for a ta­ble. That’s our spe­cial­ity.’ In fact, it’s just one of many spe­cial­i­ties that So­phie’s has per­fected over the years.

Sur­rounded by some of Lon­don’s great­est mu­se­ums, shops and the­atres, So­phie’s is the ideal spot for a leisurely lunch, pre-show din­ner, late-night bite or well-crafted cock­tail. Opened in 2008 by life­long friends So­phie Bath­gate and Ru­pert Power, the res­tau­rant has be­come one of Lon­don’s finest steak­houses, of­fer­ing suc­cu­lent beef cuts along­side fresh fish, BBQ ribs, big sal­ads, home­made desserts and a scrump­tious kids’ menu. For Bath­gate and Power, who set up their first steak­house on Chelsea’s Ful­ham Road in 2002, the aim was sim­ple: to cre­ate a fe­male-friendly steak­house with a fo­cus on qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, value for money and fun.

‘I think a lot of peo­ple mis­take us for a New York-style steak­house,’ says Spar­ling, per­haps re­al­is­ing the sim­i­lar­i­ties it has with US steak­houses such as Peter Luger in Brook­lyn. ‘We like New York-style steak­houses but we’re all about Bri­tish, lo­cally sourced food here, from our Cor­nish lob­sters to the meat we get from So­phie’s fam­ily farm.’ The se­cret to So­phie’s enor­mous suc­cess is a farm-to-plate con­cept. It all starts with meat sourced in Devon, Cornwall and Bath­gate’s own farm. ‘So­phie grew up on a farm in Ox­ford­shire where we still get quite a lot of our meat from,’ ex­plains Spar­ling. ‘All the cows are Aberdeen An­gus, which is quite some­thing. We take our staff there regularly to meet them and see how it all works.’ When the pri­mal cuts of na­tive breeds ar­rive at the Covent Gar­den res­tau­rant, they are dry-aged in the res­tau­rant’s own meat-hang­ing room, which is view­able from sev­eral of the curved din­ing booths that punc­tu­ate the ca­pa­cious wooden floor. These cuts are butchered daily by So­phie’s

multi-skilled chefs, cre­at­ing the menu’s pop­u­lar ‘Chef Cuts’ of chateaubriand, porter­house, dou­ble en­tre­cote and T-bone.

‘A lot of love goes into our steaks, from the minute the meat ar­rives to the mo­ment we serve it to our cus­tomers,’ says Spar­ling of the process, which in­cludes rest­ing the meat be­fore it’s ready to serve. ‘Chateaubriand is de­li­cious. It comes in a va­ri­ety of sizes, from 20-50oz, and it’s not your av­er­age cut. It’s a very lean, melt-in-your-mouth kind of fil­let. It’s per­fect for shar­ing too.’ Not con­tent with just mas­ter­ing steaks, So­phie’s boasts one of the city’s most de­li­cious Sun­day roasts, which fea­tures slow-roasted beef and all the trim­mings you would ex­pect from this most tra­di­tional of Bri­tish lunches. There are even smaller sized roasts avail­able each Sun­day for kids, which are free in the Covent Gar­den venue!

Then there’s the 10oz Black An­gus burger, made with cross rib and minced carpac­ciostyle. Served in­side a fluffy brioche bun be­side a heap of hand-cut beef-drip­ping fries, this burger is so exquisitely pre­pared that it can be cooked from blue to well done, just like a steak, a process that Spar­ling is proud to of­fer: ‘Minc­ing in-house al­lows us to pre­pare the beef in our own way. Carpac­ciostyle burgers are quite unique – a lot of other places can’t do it – but it means we can cook them just the way peo­ple like it.’

The man be­hind the beef is head chef Sam Hafri who leads a 20-strong team in a kitchen that never stops. Hafri’s hands-on ap­proach to cui­sine is well-suited to So­phie’s, which is known for pre­par­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing in-house, from the may­on­naise to the ice cream and the house wine which Bath­gate and Pow­ers crafted them­selves in France. The bar staff have even taken to in­fus­ing their own spir­its.

‘The Chilli Mar­tini is in­cred­i­ble,’ says Spar­ling of So­phie’s 10oz Mar­tini menu. ‘It’s made with chilli-in­fused vanilla vodka and it’s got a real kick to it. We’ve also just started in­fus­ing our te­quila with chilli too.’ 10oz Mar­ti­nis are not a usual sight in Lon­don, but then there’s noth­ing about So­phie’s that screams ‘usual.’ ‘It’s not your stan­dard din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,’ agrees Spar­ling. ‘It’s more like, “We’re hav­ing a big party, come and join in.” That’s our vibe.’ And on a visit to Lon­don, that’s just the kind of in­vi­ta­tion you want. To book a Rugby World Cup view­ing ta­ble, email covent­gar­den@so­phiessteak­house.com or call T: 020-7836 8836. 29-31 Welling­ton St, WC2E 7DB. www.so­phiessteak­house.co.uk

FOR WINE AND MEAT

Vinoteca is inspired by the wine bars of Spain and Italy, and has branches across Lon­don, in­clud­ing Soho and Maryle­bone. More than 250 wines are of­fered (around 25 by the glass), along­side cured meats im­ported di­rectly from Spain and Italy. www.vinoteca.co.uk

FOR NEW RE­GIONS

The Rem­edy cel­e­brates lesser-known re­gions, grapes and style of wines, in­clud­ing ‘or­ange wines’ (whites em­u­lat­ing reds). 124 Cleve­land St, W1T 6PG. www.therem­e­dy­lon­don.com

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