Friday, 23 December 2016


Open for over 22 years (almost a quarter of a century!), El Pirata is a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant that is known to serve some of the best and most authentic Spanish food in London. It is a bit of a hidden gem, tucked away on Down Street, just off Piccadilly, and offers a laid back and friendly atmosphere in the middle of Mayfair.
The restaurant interior design is inspired by typical Spanish tapas bars, with seated dining spread over two floors, including a bar on the ground floor where you are welcome to pop in for a drink and a light bite, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the action in the kitchen.

As I've never really ventured much into that part of Mayfair, I was quite surprised to see how lively it was inside despite being located on such a quiet street. It was also fun to see that they had embraced the festive spirit by decorating the inside with sparkly Christmas baubles.

The kitchen is led by Head Chef Rosendo Simbana, with a menu that offers more than 60 different tapas dishes and over 140 Spanish wines.  
We were served a few nibbles whilst we settled in and browsed through the menu: marinated mixed olives, my favourite padron peppers, and delicious melt-in-your-mouth Jamón ibérico.  

We had a couple of their signature dishes from the seafood section, including the Langostinos al chef (grilled prawns in a tomato, garlic and white wine sauce) and the Calamares con arroz negro (black rice and squid). The prawns were really fresh and juicy, and that sauce was very flavoursome, that I would definitely recommend ordering extra bread to soak up all that goodness ...
The rice was cooked well and had a nice bite to it, with small pieces of squid mixed into it - also very appetizing.

I do love lamb, and the Chuletitas de cordero (grilled lamb cutlets) were succulent, juicy, and well-marinated, just how it should be. The marinated chicken skewers were tender and the chorizo pieces gave it some extra flavour and a nice hint of spiciness. 
We also had the tortilla, a classic Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions that was simple and wholesome

I would have happily ordered more hot tapas dishes if not for the limited space in my stomach ... I did have my eye on that grilled octopus and baby eels in olive oil.
 By the end of our meal, we just about had enough space to share one dessert, going for the creamy Crema Catalana and coffee to finish off.

Alongside tapas El Pirata also offers larger, traditional dishes including Cochinillo a la traditional (roasted suckling pig with potatoes in a traditional style) and Lubina a la Espalda (whole butterfly sea bass grilled, with garlic and chilli, olive oil, sherry vinegar and served with fresh beans and pobre potatoes). Just reading through the menu again makes me hungry.
There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from and tapas menus are always really flexible, so there will always be something to suit everyone's tastes.
The 'Menu del Dia' which is available from 12pm - 6pm is well-priced at £10.25 per person (two tapas dishes, a basket of bread and aioli, and a glass of wine/beer), and twp equally good value set menus (£18.50 and £23.50 each) that include upto 10 tapas dishes.

We had a lovely experience from start to finish, and service was pretty smooth despite it being quite busy that evening.
This charming venue is within walking distance from Green Park and Hyde Park tube stations, where General Manager Jose Rodrigues and his team will be sure to show you some proper Spanish hospitality and make sure that you leave feeling full and satisfied. 
You can find out more information on their website.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.


Thursday, 8 December 2016


I have always loved the ballet, and Swan Lake has always been a classic favourite, so what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than combining my two loves in a Swan Lake themed afternoon tea at The Corinthia London.
Located just a few moments away from Trafalgar Square, afternoon tea is served in The Lobby Lounge which is illuminated by natural light that streams down from the glass dome above.
Their unique centrepiece is the first thing that catches our eye as we enter, a beautiful 'full moon' chandelier designed by Chafik Gasmi, which features 1000 Baccarat crystal clear globes. 
 I remember catching a glimpse of it sometime ago on my Instagram feed (one of the main channels that I use to keep in touch with 'the world' ... social media these days).
It looked even more stunning in real life and definitely added to the ambience, accompanied by soothing tunes from the live piano and cello playing in the background

I had the Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea which came with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne, whilst for my tea, I went for the Corinthia Welcome Tea, exclusively created for Corinthia London and hand-blended in Britain: a delicate blend of white and green tea interlaced with subtle notes of lemon and ginger.
There was also an amuse-bouche to start with: 'Lightness and Laughter' which consisted of a lemon-infused white chocolate namelaka (a creamy ganache) and fresh raspberries. 

There was a selection of six different sandwiches (the more the merrier!) 

Classic Olivier Salad on White Bread
Loch Var Smoked Salmon with Sour Cream and Salmon Roe on Beetroot Bread
Cucumber, Buttermilk and Dill on Black Rye Bread
Wiltshire Ham, Apple and Mustard on Cranberry Bread
Corn-fed Chicken, Chestnut Butter and Tarragon on Brown Bread
Pickled Tongue, Horseradish and Beetroot in Smoked Bun 

 I loved the variety of colours and shades, and after we finished, our lovely waitress came over with a fresh tray of sandwiches to ask us if we wanted seconds. I obviously could not resist and had an extra piece each of the Olivier Salad and the Smoked Salmon with the juicy salmon roe that popped in your mouth with each mouthful.

  This was followed by a selection of warm plain and raisin scones served with pots of lemon curd, strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream. WK doesn't like raisins (yes, he is one of them), so I kindly offered to swap my plain one, saving him the arduous effort of picking them out - my good friend deed of the day.

And finally we indulged in a choice of English Tea Fancies inspired by the love story of Swan Lake - oh those Tchaikovsky tunes never fail to pull at my heart strings ...
 Each one was a lovely little piece of edible art, one would say that they were almost too pretty to eat, but then again one must not let good food go to waste ...

- Odette -
A delicate White Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Wine Infused Plums

- White Russion Eclair -
Coffee Pastry Cream with a hint of Vodka

- Medovik -
Sweet Honey Cake, Caramel and Sour Cream

- Odile -
A Dark Chocolate Mousse with Caramel Cremeux

- A Clearing in the Forest -
Caramelised Pistachio Tart, Candied Ginger and Praline Ganache

- Siegfried's Sash -
Layered Cherries and Tonka bean Bavarois

This Festive Afternoon Tea menu is available until 1st January 2016, so there's still some time to book yourself in for a treat, and maybe be inspired to get those ballet shoes out again..? I'll be sure to put those pirouettes back on the New Year's resolution list again ...

The Cheekster, signing out x

Sunday, 20 November 2016


After a much enjoyable Winemaker's Dinner at Frescobaldi a few months back, I was very much excited to return for a special lunch by Guest Chef Franco Aversa, the A-list Head Chef from Aurora, Capri's most exclusive restaurant.

Aurora, the critically-acclaimed restaurant on the island of Capri in Italy's bay of Naples, is a family business owned by Mia D'Alessio; the kitchen led by her husband, Head Chef Franco. Known as one of Capri's oldest restaurants, it specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and traditional Neapolitan and Caprese cuisine, with Head Chef Franco's personal twist. 

Hungry with anticipation after browsing through the menu, we left our choices in the safe hands of the lovely Mia, who brought us a delightful selection of tasting dishes.
 We started with some tasty, crisp arancini balls and moreish courgette fries, followed by some seafood dishes such as the octopus salad with green beans, and grilled squid with a creamy potato velouté. The fish fillet was cooked beautifully, topped with a golden, crunchy potato crust.
I was really craving for some pasta that day, and my favourite dish was undoubtedly the Pappardelle with cheese, pepper and black truffle - sometimes the simple things in life can bring great joy and comfort.
I had a mouthful of the Cannelloncino of Magro with ragu Napoletana sauce, which was also very good. 

La Tradizione: Mozzarella in Carrozza, Involtino di Melanzane, Arancino, Zucchini Scapece

Insalata di Polpo Croccante con Patate e Fagiolini

Calamaretti Grigliati su crema di patate

Pappardelle con Cacio, Pepe e Tartufo Nero

Filetto di Pesce in crosta di Patate con verdura

Cannelloncino di Magro con Ragout alla Napoletana

There was a surprise chocolatey dessert for all of us at the end, each topped with a candle just for that special touch - I'm sure that it must be someone's birthday in the world somewhere ...

Ristorante  Frescobaldi hosts regular Guest Chefs from around the world throughout the year, for a period of upto two weeks at a time.
This current Guest Chef event runs for just over a week, until Saturday 26th November 2016, so book yourself in whilst you still can for an exclusive taste of Capri.
And whilst you're there, don't forget to pair your meal with their extensive and exclusive range of Italian wines.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.