Fino

Why go here:

One of London’s first contemporary Spanish restaurants serving both traditional and modern tapas and sister restaurant to Barrafina, London’s only Michelin starred tapas bar.

What it looks like:

Unlike most other tapas bars with tiny spaces and wooden stool seating, Fino is a large, modern dining space with a bar curtain-ing the semi-open kitchen. Additionally, Fino is good for when you don’t want to queue since the unlike its sister restaurants, it does allow bookings.

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The food:

The restaurant has a regularly changing menu. The tapas are actually all served in decent sized portions and usually two will be more than enough to fill you up, excluding the cheapest dishes maybe (that are cheaper than £5 or £6).

The crispy pig’s head with cherry apple chutney, mustard and pickled onions was one of my favourites. Don’t let the words pig’s head deter you because there is no actual trace of the head. The name simply refers to the use of the meat from the pig’s head which is then braised, deep fried and formed into intensely rich croquettes, whose flavour was enhanced further by the sweetness of the cherry apple chutney and caramelised pickled onions.

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The clams were juicy, fresh and plentiful. The grilled quail came with a garlic aioli which was so delicious, it almost dominated the dish over the quail.

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The fava beans with chorizo was a rustic and hearty meal on its own and the texture of the firm chorizo worked really well with the smooth, squishy white beans.

My only complain would be with the timings of the dishes, which arrived at very different points over the course of about half an hour even though they were all ordered at the same time.

Verdict:

Go here if you want to try high quality tapas in a modern setting and if your friends don’t mind waiting in case your dish arrives much earlier than theirs. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous because you won’t easily get to try tapas of the same sort anywhere else or even at Fino itself due to the daily changing menu!

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Why go here

If you want to try eclectic food which combines Asian, European and Middle Eastern cuisines.

What it looks like:

Situated in the heart of Covent Garden, the place has a modern feel to it. A square room with parallel lined tables and minimalist decor. But it is quite small which is why if you come for brunch, you’ll most likely be seated outside since the place is pretty popular among brunch lovers for its Turkish eggs.

The food:

While there is a good value pre-theatre menu available, you’re best placed in ordering multiple small plates and sharing them because there is much more choice available with these. Of course this also means you can maximise the number of new things you’ll get to try (I can guarantee that you’d not have had the majority of the dishes on the menu before).

The dishes we ordered were the Tempura-spiced Dhal Pocket; the Sesame Chilli Salted Squid; the Prawn and Chorizo Scotch Egg and the Caramelised Onion, Feta and Pesto Tortilla.  Our favourite was the dhal pocket, a mildly spiced lentil cake stuffed with a mix of caramelised coconut and pickled papaya. The dish had a subtle blend of Indian and Thai flavours.

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The pesto tortilla reflected a confluence of Greek and Spanish with the caramelised onions adding a French touch. But what wins one over is the super gooey and runny inside – it has for forever changed my expectations for what a tortilla should look and taste like.

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Every dish was an explosion of flavours and the brains behind the menu definitely have a very good idea of what combinations work, no matter how unusual they are.

Portions are pretty small, so you’re recommended ordering five or more plates for sharing between two people. Service was quite attentive even though the restaurant was crowded, with the waiter taking the time to walk us through what the different dishes entailed.

Overall

Great location, unique and very delicious food merging cuisines from different parts of the world. Ideal for brunch or for an evening tapas style meal.