So as you all know it was my birthday a few days ago, and what better way to celebrate that than to visit a restaurant and have a huge wine and dine outing?
I picked Navarro’s this year (and last year, too… hint how good it is), which is a small Spanish restaurant just next to Tottenham Court Road.
The authencity is hard to describe. First of all, the place looks adorable at first sight already (I happen to think blue is cute).
The second best thing is that every member of staff is unmistakably Spanish. For example, when we stepped in, the lady behind the counter (presumably the manager) looked up, made a wave with her hand as if to hush us, then continued rambling on the phone (in Spanish, of course) with huge hand gestures. I found it extremely funny. The smell was already incredible.
We got a cute little table in the end – fun fact, it was the same table that we had last year too. A little on the design: the walls are tiled with colourful tiles that look like they had been brought straight from the walls of an old, Spanish villa. The tables are all wooden and painted with typical Spanish motives, just like this:
Don’t be fooled, I took this picture after an hour and a half of sitting there, some time around 11. On arrival, the place was packed.
Now if you’re not familiar with tapas, a brief note on it: tapas is pretty much a collective noun in Spanish for starters, and has a great culture in the whole of Spain. It is what people in Britain would call bar food most likely: small plates and small portions “para picar” (a.k.a. to nibble), presented absolutely beautifully. Typical elements of tapas include olives, anchovies, Serrano ham etc. and in many restaurants, they don’t even bother offering main courses. When it comes to tapas, it is best to get many small plates and really just snack until full – naturally, with a couple of beers or glasses of wine.
So following this tradition, we started our meal with a cheese platter and “pan con tomate y jamon Serrano” – that is, bread smothered in tomato and garlic and topped with ham. It went something like this:
With this, we got a little bread basket (which included salted almonds too!), grapes and two nobs of what I figured to be soft fig jam cubes. The cheese platter included Manchego, which is one of the most typical and tasty of Spanish cheeses – absolutely delicious. The bread under the ham was crunchy and seeing as I love the bitter kick of raw garlic, I enjoyed them to an extreme level.
After the starters, we ordered two main courses. One was “pollo con gambas”, which meant chicken covered with shrimps and some delicious sauce that was good enough to keep dunking bread into it until we wiped the plate clean.
I chose a dish that I had seen last year and it looked absolutely gorgeous: it was grilled pork and chorizo sausage (spicy and fantastic, one of my all-time favourites) on a skewer, served with tiny cubes of sweet potato.
(I hope you can see this okay – the strange light is actually as it is, and it creates adorable atmosphere. Makes it all the more difficult to take photos, though.) I will not lie, this dish would have been a little dry, had it not been for the sauce of the shrimpy chicken – but the sweet potatoes were cooked to absolute perfection, soft but still had a bite to them. The chorizo tasted absolutely gorgeous, as always.
Finally, dessert: we decided to share one as we were already full, and what else could have it been than the typical Spanish dessert, churros con chocolate?
This beautiful pastry, sprinkled with sugar, is deep fried and served with a little pot of melted dark chocolate for dunking – and so delicious you just want to keep licking your fingers afterwards. We finished off the dinner with a small glass of liquor each – I mean, where else are you going to find hazelnut or green apple liquor for £3.50 on the menu? We felt just slightly like Hemingway’s characters in the Sun Also Rises.
All in all, Navarro’s restaurant is reasonably priced, and the food is really worth it. Although the staff is not overly friendly, every waitress is very polite. The only remark I would make is that they unfortunately don’t offer taster menus for less than 4 people – which I think is a shame, seeing as you want to try as many tapas as you can. But other than this, the place gets a five-star rating from me – I probably will be returning in a year!
If you live in London and want to try their delicious food, here’s the website for more info.
Until then, hasta luego amigos!