Less food can mean so much more. More plates, more dishes, more flavour. When the quantity of food is small, the cook is forced to maximise the taste, the diner is encouraged to try as much as they can, and the dishwasher… things aren’t so good for them. Tapas epitomises this approach. We went down to Drakes Tabanco over in Fitzrovia recently to indulge in this philosophy of minimaxing (yes, I’ve just made that up) our food.
Promising delicious tapas, Drakes Tabanco also delivers on the booze front, with a collection of rare sherries barrelled on site. We were lucky enough to try a few alongside our food, and the selection really showcased the range of sherry on offer. To begin with, we were served a nice dry sherry to go with our mains which changed my expectations of what a sherry can taste like. I’ve always associated sherry with a certain strong sweetness, but this was more like an aged dry wine, full of depth.
Of course, the sherry was served to go with an array of foodie delights. The truffled goats cheese with honey was served under a sprinkling of nuts alongside some fresh bread. The cheese cut off like butter, and spread heartily over the bread, providing a rich creamy taste.
The deep fried baby squid arrived soon after with a nice chunk of lime. A tapas favourite of mine, the baby squid was crispy on the outside and fleshy on the inside, with the lime penetrating the crispy exterior to add a nice sharp twist.
The deep fried cauliflower, with manchego and a pine nut salad came with an incredibly enthusiastic recommendation from within Bookatable. Wonderfully presented, it looked like a miniature forest (with cauliflower trees) on a rustic plate. It’s unusual for me to say this about any meal, but the cauliflower was a real highlight.
The acorn-fed iberico pork burger with garlic leaf was in some ways the opposite of the cauliflower; standing solemnly on the plate alone, towering over its compatriot. The bread was light, and the pork was lovely – nice and juicy, with a little lettuce underneath to make the more health conscious amongst us happy.
There were no such concessions with the morcilla, served with garlic mash and apple (and a little lemon wedge for some sharpness). If you’re not sure what morcilla is, the picture should give it away – it’s a luxury black pudding. Its thick, soft, meaty, pungent interior balanced with the aromatic garlic mash and sweet apple. This was a true showpiece for the restaurant, showing classic Spanish cuisine mixed with modern sensibilities.
Time to finish off with a cheese board. We had another sherry recommended to us for this dish – a dark, almost black sherry that tasted of burnt sugar. An excellent choice for the cheese adventure we were about to embark on. Featuring aged Manchego, Tota de Barros, Picos and San Simon, all served with individual accompaniments, the board was epic.The four cheeses worked well, mixing the smooth with the sharp.
Tapas can appear to be a contradiction, if you believe the opening salvo of this post. An individual dish, while full of flavour, feels unbalanced. It’s the volume of these individual dishes over the course of the meal that make the experience. Drakes Tabanco have wonderful dishes that combine to so much more, and will leave you clear in your admiration of the food.
3 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, (opposite the Charlotte Street Hotel), London, W1T 2HY