What can you tell us about Sabor?
Sabor is a joint venture between two of the powerhouses behind the success of London's finest Spanish tapas restaurant chain - Barrafina. José Etura was the general manager there while Nieves Barragan was executive chef. If you had a great time in those restaurants while eating amazing food it was largely down to them. Now it's time for them to do the same with their own place.
Where is it?
It's on Heddon Street, that restaurant-lined road that's tucked away about halfway down on the western side of Regent Street. The street is also home to Magpie and Gordon Ramsay's Heddon Street Kitchen. It's about an equal distance from Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus.
What kind of set-up can we expect?
It's a three-part restaurant on two levels. Open now is the bar and restaurant downstairs. This is dominated by the open kitchen. If you've been to Barrafina, it's both familiar and different, same counter set-up but here it's set slightly lower. But you're still as close to the action as ever. The attention to detail is everything; they've even put a padded area in front of your knees so they don't knock against the counter - a welcome touch.
The ground floor also houses the bar. There are high-tables and stools and a different menu too. It's closer to Spain's stand-up pinxtos/tapas bars - the closest we've seen to it in London is probably Jose in Bermondsey
And there's more to come?
Upstairs is the Asador - a room of long tables and high stools - something very different indeed. This opens in March and will be bookable.
But downstairs is still walk-in?
It is. Already it's as, if not more, popular than Barrafina. Get there early if you can and grab whatever seats are available.
We were very lucky and grabbed the last two seats at 6pm. Yes, we left work and dashed straight there. But at that time there were plenty of spaces in the bar. So even if you do arrive and have to wait, there are real benefits from not being able to grab a seat. At the very least, you want to order the Camarones Fritos & Fried Egg (£6.50) which is only available at the bar. We managed to grab a plate of that and it was stunning. You'll be seeing this all over Instagram.
So - onto the food - what can we expect from the menu?
It's in two parts, the standard menu that's waiting in front of you when you sit down - and a list of ever-changing specials that you'll see listed in the open kitchen. The main menu is divided into snacks, veg, meat, fish and dessert. It's not a huge choice which makes it eminently approachable. You'll want to order pretty much everything on it.
So - what can you recommend?
Firstly we didn't come anywhere close to experiencing a duff dish on the menu. We simply loved everything we tried and only worrying about our ability to fit back out through the door stopped us ordering more.
That said - a few standouts for us were:
- Pan Tomate with cecina (£2.50) - simply some of the best pan tomate we've ever had. Sometimes the simplest dishes are hardest to perfect but this was spot-on.
- The prawn croquetas (£6) and the Salt Cod Ajoarriero tortilla (£7). Nieves Barragan perfected these at Barrafina and these versions are wonderful. Also note that the tortilla changes regularly. Just another reason to return.
- The Queso Fresco & Black Truffle Brioche (£9.50) - we love queso fresco at the best of time, covered with black truffle? Even better.
- Presa Iberica 5 Jotas, Mojo Verde (£8.50) - hard to go wrong with Presa Iberica, and this was a generous portion for the price.
- From the specials menu, beautifully cooked deep fried squid.
We should also mention that there was one dish we missed - the Arroz con Salmonete (rice with fish - £12.50). This has been praised all over the place as one of the not-to-miss dishes. So don't make our mistake. Order it.
With all that food, should we save room for dessert?
Absolutely! We had the Rhubarb and Mascarpone Tartaleta (£6.50) with the rhubarb the perfect spot between tart and sweet and pastry just as delicate as you demand it to be, alongside the Cuajada de Turron, Oloroso Cream (6.50) - which turned out to be a nougat flan with sherry floating on the top. And we liked the look of the cheeses with prune brandy jam - a perfectly sized end of course snack at £7.
Well, obviously you'll need some to go with all that. The drinks list is tucked in a space between your knees and the counter - a nice touch which means you're never too far away from it...
Wine starts at the £25 a bottle mark heading up to £135 for La Mujer Canon (red, Garnacha) if you're pushing the boat out. Or you could go properly Basque with the Txakoli selection (starting at £7 a 125ml glass or £38 a bottle) or cava (starts at £38 a bottle). Glasses are all 125 ml, though, the only sticking point for us - we wish larger glasses or carafes were available.
Sabor comes with the incredibly high expectations that have been set by Barrafina before it. Nieves Barragan and José Etura have met those expectations head-on and delivered what we think is easily destined to be one of the great London restaurants for years to come. We loved every bit of it and think you will too. Now to plan a return trip to try out the asador...
More about Sabor
Where is it? 35 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BR
How do I book? Book online for the asador. The downstairs bar and restaurant are for walk-ins only.
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