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Tapas at Pinchito

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Just over a year ago we swapped Clerkenwell and its myriad of destination restaurants for West Hampstead and its neighbourhood coffee shops. Looking back fondly on our EC2 days, we often rue the nights spent eating in rather than out sampling local delicacies. And a trip back to the old ‘hood compounded the feeling, when we discovered a Tapas institution only five minutes walk from our old flat. Pinchito: how had we missed it?

Pinchito is Clerkenwell meets Shoreditch, exposed brickwork and dim lighting provide some East London urban cool, but doesn’t leave Clerkenwell’s less cool professionals  feeling totally out of place. It’s buzzy, fun, not somewhere to dress up for: an ideal neighbourhood restaurant. It’s worth booking at weekends as it fills up quickly.

We ordered as many dishes as we could fit on our small, wobbly table – deep fried squid, patatas bravas, asparagus with artichokes, meat balls with green olive sauce, and tomato bread. The squid was flavoursome and moreish and not at all tough. Patatas bravas were only average, marred by a heavy hand with the garlic. Asparagus with artichoke, served cold, was disappointingly insipid and very wet. This was the only dish not to be speedily polished off by three hungry diners. The meatballs with green olive sauce was the star of the show; fantastically tender, juicy and tasty. We had five empty plates and three not quite replete tummys. Time for a second viewing of the menu.

Round two was chicken in pedro ximinez sauce, date, hazelnut and bacon skewers, chicken skewers and huevos rotas (fries, eggs and chorizo). Chicken skewers were on the dry side and the fries were bland, but the other dishes delivered the oily, moreish hit of high calorie flavour that tapas is known for. 

Pinchito isn’t bargain basement, but with prices averaging £6 a dish, it undercuts tapas favourite Barrafina by a pound or two, so if you find yourself on that side of town and need a hit of Espana, steer clear of Meson Los Barilles on the Goswell Road and head for Pinchito.

Details:

Pinchito, 32 Featherstone Street, London, EC1Y 8QX

Overall score: 7/10

Mummy friendly score: hmmm, space is limited so I don’t think a buggy would go down well. This is the domain of the childless urban cool, or those with babysitters.

Gastrodad score: 7/10

Cost of meal for 3 adults including sangria: £106

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Fino

Heading the list of restaurants I really should have been to but haven’t is Barrafina, but a no booking policy and tales of epic queues reduce its appeal for those of us with a babysitter to get back to. Our compromise was Fino, Barrafina’s Charlotte Street sister restaurant which takes reservations, albeit with a two hour time limit. I was intrigued to visit, having read contrasting reviews from some time ago from An American in London and Tamarind and Thyme.

Charlotte Street was abuzz with the post-work crowd making the most of a balmy summer evening. Leaving the bustle behind, we descended into the  restaurant where we found a lively atmosphere fitting for a group meal out or a first date alike. Our waitress was helpful with recommendations, though we were disappointed to find that at 8pm they had already run out of the monkfish special. There was also no red mullet; perhaps there had been an issue with the fish order that day.

Dishes came in twos, allowing us time to enjoy each one whilst it was still warm. We started with bread which was served with fantastically fruity olive oil (£2.00) and a mixed platter of cold meats (£12).

Ham croquettas (£3.60) arrived next, which were beautifully light and fluffy, and crisp on the outside.

Squid wrapped with pancetta in ink sauce (£12.80) delivered a mouthful of flavour, and the squid was perfectly cooked.

A black pudding tortilla was deliciously soft and oozy, the centre spilling out as we cut into it. Being of Scottish descent, I was excited at the prospect of black pudding, but disappointingly I couldn’t detect any trace of it.

The presa iberica with confit potatoes (£12.00) was tender and juicy, with a sumptuous and flavourful layer of fat, but the potatoes were oversalted.

We finished with the donuts (£6.50), which I had been looking forward to all day. What a disappointment! A  plate of three tempting donuts arrived, which I bit into with great expectations, only to find them dry and stodgy. We really needed the vanilla ice cream to add some moisture. The santiago tart (£6.50) was by contrast light and nutty with Christmassy spices. Absolutely delicious.

Fino offers something a cut above the generic, oily dishes found in so many of London’s tapas restaurants. The dishes we had were creative and well executed, with only a few inconsistencies. There is a lively vibe, making Fino a great option for a special night out, albeit it at a price. Our meal came to £111 which included two glasses of champagne and three glasses wine.

Details:

Fino, 33 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR

Overall: 8/10

Mummy friendly score: babysitter required, but marks for taking reservations!

Gastrodad score: 8/10