I used to work right by Borough Market and every day I’d walk past the quaint, but always chaotically busy, Brindisa Tapas on the corner as I entered the market. I was spoiled for choice when I worked in London Bridge and, with so much choice and only just over 12 months working there, I never once made it in to no-reservations Brindisa. Fast forward a couple of years and I was looking for a last-minute dinner location for my best friend and I in East London and discovered Tapas Brindisa, Shoreditch.
Tapas Brindisa Shoreditch is actually one of five Brindisa restaurants in London, with the original in Borough Market going strong for almost 15 years. As well as the five restaurants and bars, they have two shops, one in Borough Market and one in Balham, selling traditional Spanish ingredients.
The Shoreditch restaurant is spacious, boasting an open kitchen surrounded by counter seating and individual tables for groups. I arrived on a cold evening in March thankful for its warm, cosy glow. We arrived quite early, around 6pm so we got great spots at the counter watching the chefs prepare in the calm before the storm of a busy Friday evening service. There was a freshly cooked tortilla placed on the counter, thankfully out of arm’s reach of my seat otherwise it may not have been there for long!
The drinks list is generally reasonably-priced and as you’d expect, largely filled with Spanish beers, wines and of course, Sangria (normal or cava based). The Sangria was really lovely, less sickly sweet than others and the closest I’ve had to my boyfriend’s Spanish Dad’s recipe (£6 for a small glass, £24 for a jug). There’s a decent cocktail list too (though we stuck with wine/sangria) with most being around £9-10.
The menu at Brindisa Shoreditch changes regularly with the addition of seasonal specials. These included lots of calçots (Spanish spring onions) and an amazing tempura salt cod with honey and apricots when we visited. I’m starting with this dish because it was fabulous, and honestly I’m a little sad that it was only a special and is no longer on the menu. The small chopped apricots were scattered over the plate and the sweet, sticky honey drizzle was a complete contrast to the salty, tempura battered (but not greasy) cod. This was a new flavour combination for me, but one that totally worked. It’s one of those really different, stand-out dishes that is exciting to eat and whose memory stays with you long after you’ve left.
We ordered some more traditional dishes like the Padrón peppers (£6) and Gambas al Ajillo (prawns with garlic; £9.75) which are firm favourites. The flesh of the Padrón peppers and the crunch of the sea salt sprinkled on top all in one, satisfyingly easy to eat, bite.
The chilli they’d added to the prawns gave them a nice warmth. All very tasty.
The Chorizo de León (£8) was bold and smoky. The Sourdough it came with was perfect to mop up the spicy oil left behind by the chorizo and the garlic oil from the prawns.
No tapas feast is complete without Patatas Bravas (£5.50) and these were great. The two sauces adorning the still-crispy potato cubes without making them soggy.
Last up, the Arroz Negro (£18) which was clearly meant as a sharing plate as it was massive – be warned! This was the only dish I didn’t like as much. I’ve tried lots of Arroz Negro and loved it but this was intensely fishy and, at the same time, not as creamy as others I’ve had. It was perfectly edible and the person I was with really enjoyed it, so I think it was more about personal preference than anything else. I think they used a lot more squid ink than previous ones I’ve had. It also had a really generous amount of squid hidden in the rice though, which didn’t go unappreciated.
I loved our meal at Tapas Brindisa, Shoreditch. For me, it ranks a very close second to Michelin-starred Barrafina, which is very high praise indeed. It’s certainly easier to get a table here! The staff were really attentive but without the rushing you so often get in London restaurants on a Friday evening. We stayed for a long time chatting without realising quite how long we’d been sat there. I will definitely be returning with Paul to see what he thinks soon.
Price: ££ (Around £100-£110 for 2 people with a couple of glasses of wine/Sangria).
Nearest tube: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street are closest.