"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The next couple of weeks are shaping up to be some of the best of the year and unsurprisingly they involve eating copious amounts of Jamon Iberico.

On Monday, I join my good chums at Brindisa for the launch of the new Dehesa, the latest release of Jamon Iberico de Bellota from the incomparable Joselito. A few days later, I fly to Seville and from there make my way to Badajoz, one of the spiritual homes of Jamon to spend some time with a producer discovering the secrets of creating the world’s single greatest item of food. By way of preparation and inspired by HP’s recent trips to Spain, I decided to make my own mini tapas crawl with visits to the two most recent additions to London’s seemingly endless production line of Spanish restaurants and tapas bars.

The new branch of Pinchito is located on the corner of Bedford Square, just off Tottenham Court Road. It’s décor and approach will be instantly familiar to anyone who has visited their first branch near Old Street or the now defunct PinXto People in Brighton. The offering is as much about the impressive cocktails created by co-owner Toby Garcia, as it is about the food and Pinchito shies away from the traditional approach to tapas bars in favour the nuevo take of Cal Pep in Barcelona from which it draws its inspiration.

A quick sampling of two staples shows that there is still work to be done in the kitchen. Rabas, that Cantabrian weekend favourite of squid, sliced thinly to look like tails (hence the name) and deep-fried was greasy, chewy and burdened with too fierce hit of paprika. Croquettes of “mixed meat” were better, well fried and with a dense filling, which would have gone perfectly with a glass of fino or a cocktail. The restaurant takes reservations and offers a wider menu of daily specials, but as with the branch in Old Street, I still think of Pinchito as an excellent bar that serves food rather than a restaurant, which does decent drinks. As the former, it is definitely worth a visit, as the latter it will need to up its game if it is to persuade people to linger.

Barrica, on the other hand has set its stall out to compete full on with the West End’s other Spanish restaurants. Located on Goodge St. a few doors down from Salt Yard, and in the space once inhabited by ill fated and appallingly names, Ooze, Barrica is an independent operation (not as reported owned by Spanish group Vino Tinto) and traditional in its approach down to the three jamons swinging from the ceiling.

There is an extensive wine list and a wide selection of pretty standard tapas. I chose two more dishes by which the intentions and abilities of any Spanish restaurant can be discerned. More croquetta of Jamon were tiny and had been cooked for too long on the outside turning from the pre-requisite golden to the point where they were just at the point of being burnt. The insides, however, were good, creamy and flecked with decent amounts of jamon, but far below what HP dubbed "The Croquetta D'oro" to be found at the three branches of Brindisa.

Which brings us to the Jamon Iberico Bellota. The ham at Barrica had been cut by machine. Although the fat began to melt to a lovely sheen, as it should, it was not enough to disguise the fact that the meat had begun to dry out and lose the delicate flavour of acorns for which it is so famous. At £12 a plate, one probably could not have expected much more of a serving of this perniciously expensive product. However, one could and should expect better quality of storage and preparation for what is the benchmark of any Spanish restaurant with serious ambition.

Some places to their credit (Vinoteca for example) have taken Jamon Iberico off the menu because they cannot sell enough at the price they need to charge to keep the product in peak condition. I suspect Barrica may come to the same conclusion not too far into their existence. It would be a good decision given the poor quality of the plate with which I was presented.

Both Pinchito and Barrica have opened recently. However, both were charging full whack, so must feel that they were offering full value for money. I only sampled two dishes in each place, as much as I could manage and the very nature of a tapas crawl. I will probably head back to both to try more, but on this showing, Pinchito is looking the more likely prospect of the two, if mainly for the fact that Toby Garcia makes some of the best drinks in town.

What both places really achieve however, is just making me long to be back in Spain. Soon come.

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Blogger Chris Pople said...

The "original" Pinchito has gone downhill too. We seem to have had very similar experiences recently - the squid I had at Old Street was pretty poor.

Never had better Iberico ham in this country that that sliced fresh at Brindisa's Borough Market place. In fact I've never had better ham anywhere, full stop.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 4:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Funthyme said...

Agreed. I have had some bad experiences in the Old Street branch.

I had to send the pan con tomate back twice last time I was there and the pincho de morcilla had been in the display counter for way too long!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 4:31:00 pm  
Blogger 7bellotas said...

please check out 7 Bellotas online, the best of the best of spansih hams ..
awsome products, makes the different/

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 5:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Sasha said...

I couldn't disagree more! The 'original' Pinchito is one of my favourite places - the iberico jamon served with thin slices of toasted baguette and grated tomato, it is simply heaven in the mouth!
Never had any issues with the food and it is always rammed - so don't think I'm alone here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 1:47:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also have to agree on the Old st branch of Pinchito. I was only introduced to it about 18months ago, but in that time standards have slipped. Overly greasy food, smaller portions and often lukewarm. Not going back in a hurry

Thursday, October 29, 2009 5:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I visited both these places and I have to disagree. Barrica was by far superior in wine menu and quality of food. The service was very attentive also.
I guess you have to go try and see for yourself.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009 7:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed Pinchito (Bayley Street) it has a very chilled funky vibe and outstanding cocktails and generous tapas. The food was inexpensive, generous, authentic and not greasy at all. The service was fun and warm and the place was urban and modern rather than old school Spanish.

Thursday, November 05, 2009 1:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

You realise of course that 100% positive ratings can be as bad as 100% negative ones. People don't like shills.

Thursday, November 05, 2009 4:36:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Went to Barrica today for lunch. The place wasn't very busy but had a nice feel to it. Staff were friendly and attentive. Food was very good. Not at Brindisa levels but that's difficult to achieve. Price wise I thought it was a bargain at just over a tenner a head. Great beans with artichokes and cod croquetas. Meatballs turned up late, but was impressed. Will go back.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 4:46:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Stumbled on Barrica with a few friends a week ago and I was impressed. Wasn't too busy, good atmosphere, and a very extensive wine list. I'll be heading back.

Monday, November 16, 2009 10:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been to Barrica a couple of times over the past month, the first time I went it was on opening week, if I'm honest they didn't seem quite ready. I came back a few weeks later and found the place alive and buzzing with atmosphere. They really nailed it!

There are an extensive selection of wines and sherries with the staff all very knowledgeable and accommodating. The tapas are exceptional, serving authentic Spanish dishes on its menu rather than the typical fare you'd normally find in London. My favourites include the Manitas (breaded pig trotters), freshly cooked squid straight off the charcoal grill and the crispy Patatas Bravas with spicy sauce and aioli are perfection. For dessert you must try the homemade ice cream & Valhorna chocolate pot, absolute heaven! And all very honestly priced.

I'll be back regularly.

Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:04:00 pm  
Blogger A Scot in London said...

Last anonymous,If you are going to send a friend to post on a blog about your resto please
1: don't make it so blindly obvious
2: Don't talk nonsense about other tapas bars in London.Granted most of them are rubbish but they all serve the food you mention.
3: Manitas are not breaded food trotters so please get your language right.You have to specify what there are little hands of (pig, lamb, small children) and how they are done.

Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:46:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Are we sure Anon isn't talking about Pear Tree Productions ?


Monday, November 30, 2009 6:14:00 pm  

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