“ Address: 63 Neal St / London WC2H 9PJ „
This is a tapas restaurant in Covent Garden, London (and there is one in Soho) that caters mainly for lunch trade or those looking for a quick bite perhaps before a theatre show or after work. It is designed to operate like the traditional pintxo bars in Barcelona and San Sebastian in that it serves miniature tapas and rather than look at a menu and chose your meal, all the food is presented on the bar counter and you literally take the ones you want. Dishes are separated into 2 price categories depending on the size of the stick that accompanies the plate. You collect the sticks and at the end of the meal present them as the tally for what you owe. In addition, as any new dish is bought out from the kitchen, it is offered around those already seated and dining to see if it takes your fancy. This is a genius technique to get you to eat a lot more as the aromas are often hard to resist.
The value of this restaurant is on the surface excellent a each dish is worth either £1.95 or £2.75. The reality of this however is that actually you tend to accumulate so many sticks that you probably end up spending more than you would in a 'traditional' restaurant.
Dishes themselves are all quite small and don't tend to divert too much from standard tapas dishes ranging from tortilla, bocadilla, chorizo cooked in wine, goujons, a variety of croquets, etc... The quality of the food is on the whole very good. They do tend to rely a lot on deep-frying but it is never too greasy. The bocadilla were a little too dry for my liking, and the bread too hard but more successful was the salt cod croquettes that were succulent and very tasty. On the whole most of the dishes we sampled was very good and tasted fresh.
The restaurant itself is very small and dark. Beyond the entrance where there are a handful of uncomfortable high tables, is a dark room with only a skylight to provide natural light. The fact that the walls are painted black doesn't help. Again the seating available is primarily high tables with stools in addition to a counter that runs around the room where you can prop yourself up for a mouthful or two. It's not the kind of place to settle for a long lunch or dinner and only really serves for a quick bite as it's not all that comfortable.
The service is very friendly but revolves largely around the staff behind the bar. I think we may have been bought our drinks and empty plates cleared but as for food, unless you catch something coming out of the kitchen, it's self-service. On the whole the restaurant was very clean and tidy and plates were removed fairly quickly once we'd finished eating.
In all I think this is a very good place to go if you want something small to eat quickly. If you are after a leisurely lunch or dinner, best to look elsewhere.