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El Faro, London [Restaurant Review]

Friday, 6 March 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

From the beginning, let me make it clear – we love Spanish food. In Spain, we had a really good time just wandering into local tapas bars and ordering random items off the menus, which were usually in Spanish and quite undecipherable to us. For the uninitiated, tapas are small little dishes of food, traditionally provided by the
bodegas (bars) to cover the top of beer glasses to stop flies from attacking their precious beer. It originated from the Andalucia province in Spain, and in Sevilla some bodegas will still provide some tapas free of charge when you order a beer, great for the hungry (and thirsty and slightly light on money) traveller.

We have heard good reviews of El Faro from our friends before, with one friend claiming that all the tapas there were excellent and recommended it highly. Indeed, the website proclaims itself “
the best Spanish restaurant in the city”. Since our knowledge and experience of Spanish food in London is pretty much just La Tasca (nothing special, try to avoid) and Café Espana (can be excellent, but quality varies unpredictably from week to week), we were quite eager to find new places to get our fix

The outside appearance of El Faro wasn’t particularly impressive, a red-bricked building with minimal decorations. Interior wise, it was simplistic and predominantly in black and cream tones and had an overall quite sophisticated tone. There were a lot of large patio windows and I’m sure dining here with the summer sunshine by the docks would be really nice. There was a rather lonely leg of ham behind the very tidy bar.

Anyway on to the food – we ordered a variety of tapas and some paella to share. The tapas all came after approximately 30 minutes fairly quickly in succession. In the meantime I was hungry but only had my little glass of beer to sip. I didn’t notice other tables being offered bread so I assumed it was normal for them not to provide it. Still, I was particularly hoping to continue the Spanish tradition of eating bread while dipping it in olive oil – delicious! At any rate, my friend had ordered “Toasted rustic bread topped with organic chopped tomatoes and olive oil”, otherwise known as
Pan a la Catalana, a personal favourite of his. It wasn’t anything very special, just bread with tomato and olive oil.

Toasted rustic bread topped with organic chopped tomatoes and olive oil
Toasted rustic bread topped with organic chopped tomatoes and olive oil

Everyone loved the “Fried squid cooked Andalucian style with romesco sauce”, essentially fried baby calamari. Tasty, not over-cooked or salted, fresh squid, but nothing else to say really.

Fresh squid cooked Andalusian style with romesco sauce
Fried squid cooked Andalucian style with romesco sauce

Of more interest was the pulpo a la gallega – boiled octopus served on a bed of boiled potatoes with paprika powder and extra virgin olive oil drizzled over it. I remember having this before in a little bodega in Barcelona by the docks; in the two hours or so we stayed there, the barman must have cut up and served half a dozen whole octopi to hungry customers. Anyway, it was good, but more would have been nice.

Galician octopus marinated in sweet paprika and extra virgin olive oil served on a bed of potatoes
Galician octopus marinated in sweet paprika and extra virgin olive oil served on a bed of potatoes

I couldn’t resist ordering their “Home made foie terrine with apricot chutney”, served with “Toasted hazelnut and raisin bread”. The terrine was lovely – dense, rich, smooth – a joy to eat with the equally delicious bread. The beans on the side were a bit odd though, we kind of just ignored it.

Home-made foie terrine with apricot chutney
Home made foie terrine with apricot chutney

toasted hazelnuts and raisin bread
Toasted hazelnut and raisin bread

One of the specials of the day was “Suckling pig terrine” and we were glad we chose it. It was moist, juicy and deliciously porky in flavour. The rockets on the side also had the richest balsamic vinegar I ever had.

suckling pig terrine
Suckling pig terrine

If you ever go, make sure you order the “Pork belly confit cubes with honey and thyme”, one of the restaurant’s specialities. Somewhat similar to Chinese style roast pork, the high quality meat was professionally cooked into a tender morsel with enough fat in it to enjoy without making one feel sick (or guilty).

Pork belly confit cubes with honey and thyme
Pork belly confit cubes with honey and thyme

The black pudding was quite nice and unlike English style, it had rice in it. Possibly the rice helped dull the taste that some might not particularly enjoy. In this case it was quite mild.

black pudding
Black Pudding

astly, another of the house specialities, “fried potatoes and eggs accompanied by Iberico ham”. Instead of the ham, one can choose other alternatives such as black pudding. Essentially, it was skinny chips with a sunny side egg and slices of ham on it. The waiter then broke the egg and mixed it all up. Although it sounds a bit odd, the combination was really amazing.

Fried potatoes and eggs accompained by Iberico ham
Fried potatoes and eggs accompanied by Iberico ham

After all that, I was still fairly hungry (the portions are depressingly small) and eager for the paella to turn up. Eventually, a HUGE traditional paella pan appeared, loaded with generous portions of mussels, prawns, fish and octopus. Firstly, while the quality of the mussels were very good, the prawns were mediocre but to me, the quality of prawns available here is just not the same as back home in Malaysia (bigger, sweeter, tastier, fresher). Anyway, the paella was good and tasty, but possibly a bit on the salty side. Just a side note; we didn’t order any mains, but I heard the suckling pig is to die for so if any of you go, try to order that. I think it needs to be pre-ordered or something too.

A Spanish classic - Paella Rice cooked with prawns, squid, mussels and vegetables
Paella Rice cooked with prawns, squid, mussels and vegetables

We were pretty full after that, so we only ordered two desserts to share among us five. We ended up choosing “Home made chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and a base of coffee and rum” and “Santiago cake served with caramel-coated almonds and home made milk liquor”. The chocolate brownie was very good, felt like a flourless variety but I had no way of verifying this.

Home made chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream and a base of coffee and rum toffee
Home made chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and a base of coffee and rum

The Santiago cake was essentially an almond tart, originating from Galicia. Very tasty but possibly a little overboard on the sweet side. The milk liquor was a bit of a mystery, we ended up pouring it over the tart but I felt it was too watery to be used for this purpose. It was quite strong as well, one of the party members who had a low alcohol tolerance was very giggly for the next couple of hours.

Santiago cake served with caramel-coated almonds and home-made milk liquor
Santiago cake served with caramel-coated almonds and home made milk liquor

The bill came up to just under £160 for the five of us, averaging £32 each. This was including a mere glass of wine, half pint beer and a cappuccino – not a whole lot extra in terms of drinks. Overall, service was very good and prompt and the restaurant had a nice buzzing atmosphere. In summary, the food was top notch, very high quality, excellently cooked and presented and was a good example of fine contemporary Spanish dining. Definitely pay a visit if you got the money to spend, but if you got even more money and want to eat even better tapas, take a trip to Spain (especially Sevilla or Barcelona) and eat in the local
bodegas there.

Food - 6.0
Service - 6.0
Atmosphere - 6.0
Value - 6.0

El Faro
3 Turnberry Quay,
E14 9RD
Tel: +44(0)20 7987 5511
Official website

El Faro on Urbanspoon

32 oink oinks...:

Sophie said...

Looks as a lovely restaurant!! I adore everyting Spanish!! MMMMMMM....I will go there in the future!! Thanks!

Peter M said...

The plates look spectacular! I would love to sup at this restuarant.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, what fantastic food! Appetizing and so nicely presented. Your shots are beautiful too...



Donna-FFW said...

Oh My! The food looks so delicious, I love the hazelnut bread. MMM, and the brownie, MMM. Looks like a wonderful place!

noble pig said...

Quite a feast.

Bob said...

Looks good. What do you use to take pictures in the restaurant?

Heather said...

mmm! that place looks delicious!

Reeni♥ said...

Everything looks outstanding! Beautiful plates of food and excellent photos, as always.

5 Star Foodie said...

What a nice meal! Each dish looks perfect.

Girl Japan said...

oh each dish has their own elements of style, I love the plating and this all looks so DELISH... I am glad you enjoyed and had such a fab time.

janetching said...

I love Spanish food, I have a lot of spanish black pudding given from my friend from Madrid. The tapas you showed here are very comtemporary, I hope to visit one day. Lovely pictures!

lisaiscooking said...

It sounds fantastic! I wish I had more options for authentic Spanish food here in Austin.

glamah16 said...

What a dinner!

Pam said...

What a feast - everything looks and sounds delicious.

Lizzie said...

I came to El Faro a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it. The olive oil with the octopus really stood out for me, it was delicious.

zerrin said...

I just envy...All these look perfect and appetizing. I just want to taste them one by one. I also loved the photograpy here.

Beachlover said...

at first glance at the photo I thought it's Japanese food!! look really good!! make me drooling now!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

The food here looks fantastic, especially the last 6 savoury dishes! Have you tried Tapas Brindisa at Borough Markets? That's pretty good too :)

Olga said...

Holy molly! The food looks fantastic!

doggybloggy said...

great review and even better pictures

tigerfish said...

The presentation is gorgeous!

Danielle said...

What a beautiful job you did presenting this experience! I am so jeaulous!

Now, I have something for you on my blog...come and grab it!
have great week!

Natashya said...

I love visiting restaurants with you guys! You have such an adventurous palate. Looks like you had lots of fun!

Alex said...

I'll have to try that out! I'm always guilty of over-ordering tapas - particularly in Spain when last Summer we were overly greedy. The waitress gave us a very stern look and only bought half our order... We were still stuffed!

Katherine Aucoin said...

I didn't know that about tapas. After looking at all of that wonderful food, I want to order one of everything!

Sam said...

I adore Spanish food I don't know why it isn't more popular, this place looks amazing!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Wow every dish looks incredible. Those are all my favourite foods and you had them in one meal. Lucky you!

Wild Boar said...

The Pigpig uses her usual d-SLR in the camera. I certainly felt a bit arkward but the waiters didn't seem to care.

Not come across Tapas Brindisa but I'll bear it in mind the next time I'm looking for a new Spanish to try.


I agree. Spanish food needs a higher profile in the rest of the world.

Rita said...

Hi Ann

There is something waiting for you at Pink Bites, come and get it!


Aimée said...

Incredible meal. Wow.

Dee said...

Jealous! The photos are excellent. More envy. Sob.

Big Boys Oven said...

Syoik, syoik after seeing all those photos !

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