In search of the authentic tapas bar experience: (1) North West London

Olives and Estrella Galicia in a shady bar in London
Olives and Estrel­la Gali­cia in a shady bar in Lon­don

En espanol

We tend to go to Spain around this time each year. How­ev­er, due to start­ing new jobs etc we haven’t been able to plan any­thing, and so we start­ed think­ing about how to repli­cate some of the best Span­ish expe­ri­ences in Lon­don. In par­tic­u­lar, we’re on a mis­sion to iden­ti­fy all of the authen­tic tapas bars in Lon­don, ide­al­ly gath­ered togeth­er in con­ve­nient tapeos (tapas bar crawls).

Let’s make it clear: we’re not talk­ing about restau­rants that serve tapas or Span­ish food. We’re talk­ing about places where you can have a nice chat over some drinks and a tapa or two. Ide­al­ly, we’re look­ing for places where you can sit up at the bar and lis­ten to old men bick­er­ing in impen­e­tra­ble dialects, to get the real feel of being in Spain.

So, after a bit of inter­net research, we put togeth­er the fol­low­ing tapeo in north west Lon­don, an area we bare­ly know.

1. Gali­cia, 323 Por­to­bel­lo Road

There are a num­ber of Span­ish, Por­tugese and Latin Amer­i­can places around here, but we were head­ed for Gali­cia, which we heard was pop­u­lar amongst expats. We weren’t dis­ap­point­ed; we walked in and imme­di­ate­ly noticed sev­er­al chaps debat­ing the con­tents of El Pais in a mix­ture of Gali­cian and Castil­ian. We parked our­selves at the bar, had some small talk with the bar­man / own­er and supped Estrel­la de Gali­cia (of course). We were there at about 6pm, before the kitchen had opened, so we can’t tell you any­thing about the food, but they were hap­py to give us some olives – for free!

We gath­er this is a huge­ly pop­u­lar restau­rant (Time Out review here) and they were ful­ly booked that night, although if you’re pre­pared to eat at Span­ish time (after 10:30) it’s eas­i­er for them to fit you in.

2. William IV, 786 Har­row Road

OK, this place is not a typ­i­cal Span­ish bar, but it does serve tapas, bloody good tapas in fact. It’s a huge gas­tro-pub with a love­ly, large beer gar­den. There’s a restau­rant bit with table ser­vice, but we pre­ferred to order a cou­ple of dish­es at the bar.

Among the sea of bland lagers, and the Inbev holy trin­i­ty (Fruli, Hoe­gaar­den, Leffe) there are also a cou­ple of ales in good nick – Lon­don Pride, and a guest, the trade­mark infring­ing Cot­tage E‑Type. There was also a huge range of wines, spir­its and cock­tails.

This place attracts a very mixed crowd, and was friend­ly and cosy. We wish it was­n’t so far away, as we could get used to a mix of real ale and tapas. We could have stayed longer, but we had anoth­er place to check out.

3. Cen­tro Galego de Lon­dres, 869 Har­row Road

This is quite a long walk from the William IV (bus strike) but def­i­nite­ly worth it for the authen­tic tapas expe­ri­ence at the end. Inci­den­tal­ly, there are var­i­ous inter­est­ing look­ing Brazil­ian places on the way that might make a good stopoff.

The Cen­tro Galego con­sists of a small restau­rant (three tables) and bar on the ground floor, and a big­ger func­tion room / restau­rant in the base­ment. It’s a cul­tur­al cen­tre of sorts, so there’s lots of pic­tures of Lon­don-based Gali­cians doing folk­loric things and play­ing foot­ball.

And it’s won­der­ful.

It’s incred­i­bly friend­ly and the food is great, as Gali­cian grub tends to be. We sat at the bar and got a free tapa with our first drink – a bit of tor­tilla, and a piece of empana­da, a kind of tuna pie. We ordered a cou­ple of Gali­cian sta­ples to go with the sec­ond round – pimien­tos de padron, and pulpo (octo­pus), togeth­er with some love­ly seafood cro­que­tas. On that sub­ject, Leigh pub­lished a tasty look­ing recipe for cro­que­tas a cou­ple of weeks back – we’re going to have to give them a try now!

The clien­tele were a mix­ture of expats (one of whom we’d seen ear­li­er that day in Gali­cia) and delight­ed native Lon­don­ers. We got very com­fort­able, and stayed for one or two more than we should have.

All in all, this crawl was a suc­cess – two bars where we can go to pre­tend we’re in Spain, and a great pub as well.

Boak

Notes

Here’s a Googlemap of the tapeo. The near­est tube to the start is Lad­broke Grove or Not­ting Hill, and near­est tube to the end is Willes­den Junc­tion.

3 thoughts on “In search of the authentic tapas bar experience: (1) North West London”

  1. Real­ly much inter­est­ing tapas route in Lon­don above all because you don’t men­tion Camino Bar hehe­he. I Know the Cen­tro Galego in Lon­don- where I got a close anglo-gale­ga friend, and is a nice place.

    In Span­ish we use Cerveza del mes when we talk about guest beer. BTW Span­ish is the name of our com­mon lan­guage instead of Castil­ian, though the lat­ter sounds a bit more roman­tic. Haya Salud ami­gos

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