Test Drives

DonostiaWhat can you tell me about Donostia?

It's a tapas restaurant, run by Tomasz Baranski, an ex head chef of Barrafina, one of London's favourite tapas restaurants. Baranski spent time in two Basque restaurants before the launch of Donostia to perfect his techniques and has focused the restaurant on serving Basque style tapas and pintxos.

Where is it?

It's deep in the heart of Marylebone, on Seymour Place, just a few minutes walk from Marble Arch tube station and on the same street as Vinoteca Marylebone.

Who's it suitable for?

Quality tapas restaurants are experiencing a resurgence in London at the moment, so anyone wanting to try the latest addition to an already impressive scene should give it a try. It's a smallish but busy restaurant - good for a fun, loud, buzzy evening - rather than a quiet get-together. And as with any restaurant offering counter dining, it's ideal for solo eating too.

Where should we meet for a drink first?

The most obvious candidate here is the Marylebone outpost of wine bar Vinoteca which is right across the street for Donostia and ideal for a pre or post dinner drink.  Alternatively, there's the Carpenter's Arms pub, two minutes up the road which is well worth a look too.

And where should we sit?

We sat by the large front windows which are obviously the best tables there if you can get them (as long as you're a group of three or under). Alternatively, the ample bar dining area is seated around the small open kitchen and is an ideal place for a spot of chef-watching as they cook your dinner in front of you. The bar seats are for walk-ins and the tables can be booked.

What should we order?

The short menu's split into several sections (picoteo, pintxo, cold plates and fish/meat/vegetable tapas) and we expect it to evolve seasonally. When we went, there were several things that jumped out as must-haves. First of these was, from the pintxo section, the tempura prawns wrapped in Bayonne ham and served with tiny cubes of mango. These are salty, piping hot and unbelievably moreish. Critically there are only two per portion, so unlike us, you should probably order more than one. The aioli that came with the toast was so good we wanted to scoop it into our pockets and steal it away with us.

Other dishes we loved included the crispy croquetas with Jamon and the tortilla bacalao - both memorable for their delightfully gooey middles. The meat cut of the moment - pork pluma - came with crunchy romanesco sauce and the traditional Basque dish of pil-pil - cod cheeks in basque sauce - is also worth ordering.

A summery light dessert of lemon tart with fruit sauce was a good finish - and we tried the cheese plate too which was the only disappointing dish of the evening with sweaty cheese and odd choice of crackers including a Jacobs Cheddar.

And what about drinks?

The cheapest bottle of wine is a £17 (or £3 for 125ml glass) bottle of Alquezar Macabeo Chardonnay or a Gran Cardo Rioja for £18 with prices rising gradually to just over £50 max.  Donostia's owners Nemanja Borjanovic and Melody Adams also run the boutique wine company Mountain Valley Wines - so expect a well curated wine list. Make sure to order at least one glass of the Txakol, a lightly sparking wine poured from a great height for maximum effect. The beer is Alhambra and we also particularly liked the deeply raisin flavoured Pedro Ximinez Hidalgo to round everything off.

And how much will this set me back?

As with any Spanish tapas restaurant, the bill can tot up quite quickly if you don't watch closely, but we think you could eat very well for about £25 a head excluding wine.

Overall thoughts?

For anyone who loved Barrafina, but was weary of the both the queues and the glares from waiting diners if you overstayed your welcome, Donostia will be a very welcome addition to the London dining scene. The dining room here has a really good buzz to it - the staff are uniformly cheerful and almost insanely enthusiastic about what they're doing here - a marked contrast to other places we've visited recently. The food is punchy, interesting and served in just small enough portions to make you want more of everything and the wine list is interesting but in a way designed not to cause too much damage to your wallet. What more could anyone wish for?

Donostia - 10 Seymour Place, London W1H 7ND

Find out more about Donostia

Hot Dinners were invited to eat at Donostia.  Prices were correct at time of writing.

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