Friday, 19 March 2010
Bar Pepito, Kings Cross
Spanish cuisine is one of the things that London seems to have been doing very well of late; I've never had anything less than a great meal in all of the Brindisa outposts, and places like Dehesa and Salt Yard are consistently excellent, so I was understandably frothing with anticipation at the prospect of visiting London's first, dedicated sherry bar. The idea appealed hugely, and seemed eminently sensible. Think of how many "fusion" restaurants are actually any good - when was the last time you went anywhere that did an excellent fish and chips AND an excellent Thai green curry? It just doesn't happen. The key to a good restaurant or bar is not to try and be all things to all people, but to focus on what you're good at, and do just that one thing VERY well. You won't find Tayyabs putting chicken korma on the menu because some people don't like spicy food - those people just won't go to Tayyabs. And quite right too.
I would have happily blown my own hard-earned cash on an evening supping chilled Tio Pepe and folding in slivers of freshly-carved Jamón ibérico, and in fact very often have, but I was lucky enough to be invited to Bar Pepito on the press night, and didn't pay for any of it. This report, then, comes with the usual caveats that apply to many of these press launches - they give you far more free booze than is good for you, the service is eager to impress, and the PR people are charming and informative. But I have a very strong suspicion that even without any of this, I still would have fallen in love with the place. First of all, it's a lovely little spot, tucked away in an old warehouse around the back of Kings Cross, with attractive bare brick walls and and a very authentic Iberian feel. Secondly, the quality of the tapas is absolutely top notch. Not only do they have a wonderful selection of Spanish cheeses (albeit sweating slightly in the heat of the room - an airconditioning unit will be required to get them through the summer months I think), but they also have a qualified "Master Carver", who last night was expertly carving a leg of genuine pata negra into a plateful of delicate wafer-thin morsels.
And last but not least, the sherries. Despite the owners being Gonzalez Byass they have a commendably liberal selection from other producers, neatly categorized into 'Manzanilla', 'Amontillado', 'Fino' and so on. The Tio Pepe Fino (£3.50 a glass) was as good as ever, but I also managed to try a glass of a sweeter 'Matusalem' (£5.50) which went very well with the cheeses. I'm a complete sherry novice, and I'll leave it to others far more knowledgeable and qualified than me to go into more detail on the drinks, but I thought they were both superb.
Sounds like the perfect bar, so far, doesn't it? And that's kind of the problem. It is. And in a part of town crying out for just this kind of post-work casual-but-different drop-in spot. And it's attractive, and reasonably priced (a plate of that lovingly-carved, top-quality Iberico is £15, a steal compared to some places), and friendly. But it's absolutely tiny. With barely a half dozen customers Bar Pepito would feel buzzy - in full flow on a Friday night I'd be very worried you wouldn't fit inside at all. But then again, the courtyard outside has tables and chairs, and soon summer will be here and happy customers will spill outside with chilled Fino and plates of ham and all will be well with the world. Until then, I strongly urge you to visit Bar Pepito before the secret's out and it's packed to the rafters every night. Because it will be. You mark my words.
I was invited to review Bar Pepito. Initially they will open Wednesday to Saturday from 5pm until midnight.