Name: Drakes Tabanco
Where: 3 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2HY, www.drakestabanco.co.uk
Cost: We opted for the pairing menu of 5 dishes and 5 matching sherries, all from Fernando de Castilla, at £49.50 per person. From the a la carte menu, there is a range of bar snacks, ranging from small plates priced at £4.50 (for roasted courgettes with Romesco sauce, burnt butter yoghurt and almond), to £12 for rump steak with salsify fries and gravy. From the list of exclusively Spanish wines, the entry level wines at £21 each are a white Viura from Rioja, and a red Tempranillo.
About: Named after the sherry taverns (or Tabancos) of Jerez, Drakes Tabanco is probably unique in London in serving Spanish food with sherries en rama (from the barrel), as well as with a range of craft beers and an exclusively Spanish wine list.
Round the corner from Fitzrovia's Charlotte Street, and opposite the Charlotte Street Hotel, the restaurant is softly lit, with red leather banquettes, plain wooden tables, and festooned with jamon legs of for a traditional Spanish atmosphere.
Customers wanting just a drink and snacks are seated around the bar, and there are some tempting options like a cheese board of 4 Spanish cheeses and accompaniments for £12, a charcuterie board for £17.50, or a mixed board of cheese and charcuterie for £15. Diners, however, make their way to the restaurant on the lower ground floor.
What We Ate And Drank: We started with smoked Scottish scallop and blood orange jelly. Served with a mild chilli salsa, I enjoyed this dish – the scallop was firmer and with a light hint of smokiness that contrasted well with the sweet jelly and zingy salsa. It was paired with a fine, bone-dry Fino Classic -aged for 3 years.
Next came deep fried artichoke, served with an artichoke and soft-boiled egg mayo and dill. Crisp on the outside, velvety smooth inside, this lovely little croquet was accompanied by an Amontillado Viejo. A Fino-style wine, but aged for over 20 years, it was golden, richly textured but again bone-dry and with a salty tang, making it an excellent partner for the artichoke.
Two meat courses followed. The Iberico burger, served with sweet burnt yoghurt and rocket was deliciously redolent of unctuous, acorn-fed pork, served in a soft and flavoursome brioche bun. To my mind, the salsify chips were a tad oily, and varied in texture from crisp to soggy. The burger came with an Oloroso Viejo, aged for over 20 years. Rounder and fuller bodied than the Amontillado, this had enough weight and complexity of flavour to match the Iberico pork.
The second meat course was a seared haunch of venison. Served with a delicious garlicky potato mash, sweet apple compote and lemon, the venison was sadly somewhat tough and dry, and I thought quite a meagre portion for a main course. It was partnered with a deliciously complex Rare Old India limited release sherry. This is a pale cream sherry, blending Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez to make a rich fortified wine, with notes of raisins and vanilla and a long, complex and satisfying finish.
To finish our tasting menu, we were served a salted dark chocolate bar with crème fraiche and a coconut cream filling, and walnut crunch. I wasn’t convinced by this as a dessert – it was a very sweet and rich chocolate bar stuffed with an even sweeter filling. The accompanying sherry, however, was a superb Pedro Ximenez Extra Viejo, aged over 25 years.
Likes: The sherries from the barrel are of excellent quality, well presented, and varied. Staff are friendly and helpful.
Dislikes: The menu is patchy, and did not on our visit celebrate the wonderful food produce of Spain in the way that we had hoped. The extremely low lighting makes the venue feel somewhat gloomy.
Verdict: With some wonderful Spanish restaurants in London, Drakes Tabanco faces stiff competition. But for sampling a range of authentic sherries from the barrel Drakes Tabanco is a good spot in Central London.