Test Drives

Spanish charm on St Katharine Dock - our Test Drive of Bravas TapasWhat can you tell us about Bravas Tapas?

It's a new family venture from Bal Thind - who was one of the original investors in Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Busaba. Thind's daughter is running the show here and the family have brought in Spanish chef Victor Garvey to create magic in the kitchen.

It's already been critically well received with Fay Maschler numbering it among the best places she's eaten this year and Giles Coren loving its 'rustic Iberian charm'.

Where is it?

Hard to find, unless you know St Katharine Dock well. If approaching from Tower Hill or Tower Gateway, you need to go down the first entrance into the dock you see off the Tower Bride Approach road. Go past Ping Pong and Cafe Rouge and you'll see it on the opposite side of the dock before you curve around to Zizzi. If all else fails, call them as we did and someone will come and find you.

Where should I meet for a drink first?

The touristy Dickens Inn is certainly handy - but a better bet would be the Perkin Reveller by the Tower which also has plenty of tables outside.

Where should I sit?

Depends on who you're with. If you're dining solo or just the two of you, there are some nice seats up at the counter where you can watch the chef at work. There are plenty of larger group tables too and we loved the driftwood style booths too. Of course if it's sunny, the most coveted tables are going to be those out overlooking the water.

So the food's Spanish - tapas, we presume?

Got it in one - the menu's split into artisinal snacks, and then sections on meat, poultry, vegetarian fish and seafood tapas. We ignored the snacks - pickles, roast almonds, marinated anchovies - and dived straight into the tapas, kicking off with hot fried cubes of patatas bravas served with an incredible piquant salsa brava and 'whipped to order' alioli - £4 of the best of its kind to be had in London right now.

Sadly the fabled foie gras crema catalana wasn't on offer (we'd have liked to compare it to Daniel Humm's version from Eleven Madison Park), but we made up for that with the foie gras stuffed quail, wrapped in crisp pork belly like little meat lollies with an eggshell of Pedro Ximénez to dip into (you get three for £8). Other highs were the morcilla sliders with green apple slaw and Idiazabal cheese (£7) and the king prawns with fried prawns heads for you to eat whole with a pil-pil emulsion (£9). But frankly everything we had here was good - and at these prices, great value for this neck of the woods too.

We weren't going to make it to desserts (Germany were thrashing Brazil and we wanted to catch at least some of the action) but were persuaded to try the Torrija with passion fruit sorbet (£5) and were glad we did. We hadn't appreciated it was going to be a sort of honeyed french toast served with almonds and passion fruit sorbet. Yes - REALLY good.

And how about drinks?

You could kick off the night with a variety of Spanish cocktails, but seeing how many wines were by the glass, we decided to work our way through that part of the drinks list. It's reasonably priced with three bottles of both white and red either £20 or under. Of the wines we tried, we particularly liked the Mas Macia (£6.50 for a generous 175ml glass) and the Clos Montblan Xipella Blanco (£7 a glass - £28 for a bottle).

Overall?

Even on a cold, rainy summer's night in London, this place oozed charm and bonhomie. If you managed to luck in and get a table here on a sunny day out overlooking the water, cold glass of Cava in hand and the prospect of that foie-gras stuffed quail on the way you'd be very happy indeed. Not only that, but the well priced menu means that if you don't manage to go quite all the way through the brief menu, you can put that to rights on another visit. A great addition to London's Spanish food scene.

Bravas Tapas, St Katharine Docks, East Smithfield, London E1W 1AT. Find out more.

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 Hot Dinners ate as guests of Bravas Tapas. Prices were correct at the time of writing.

 

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