El Pirata offers four different dining experiences
The bar, the restaurant upstairs, the downstairs party room and al fresco dining at the front of the restaurant on Down Street.
Sit on one of the high stools at the bar in this classic Mayfair restaurant, and you can watch head chef Rosendo Simbana and his small team hard at work in the kitchen while you snack or wait for a table.
Look up and to the left from the bar and you’ll see one of the Mayfair restaurant’s specialities – the Iberico Bellota Jamón – said by service guru and star of Channel Four’s ‘First Dates’ television show Fred Sirieix, to be the finest in London
The mirrored bar runs the full length of the restaurant; a display area for the whiskies, aperitifs and digestifs stacked up on stepped shelves in a pyramid almost to the ceiling. Some regulars prefer to eat their entire meal at the bar, others stop by for a chat, a glass of wine and a tapas or two, served in the little terracotta dishes known as cazuelas. Customers often have a drink at the bar before their meal, so it is always buzzing.
The restaurant was originally designed by the staff and is, as a result, genuinely authentic. The white walls are covered in Spanish prints and old black and white photographs. The wooden floors, black woodwork and wrought iron invoke memories of Madrid and Barcelona. The sounds of Spain – its music, of course, but also the sounds of customers having a good time, the clinking of glasses and the scrape of cutlery on terracotta – are everywhere.
Step down the iron spiral staircase in the centre of the split level restaurant and you are in the lower dining room, a popular part of the restaurant and also available for private hire and the perfect party room. Some customers prefer the lower level, which has discreet alcove tables ideal for more intimate meetings and dining.
Whatever the British weather is doing, there are those who prefer to sit at the outside tables. Down Street is quieter than most in Mayfair, and it is relaxing to sit and watch the world go by.
It would have been different when the Down Street Underground station was still open, but even then it wouldn’t have been very busy: the tube station – at the Piccadilly end of the street – closed in 1932, and was used as a bunker by former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet during World War Two. It’s just part of Mayfair’s rich history, which began just around the corner in what is now Shepherd Market.
El Pirata gives excellent value for money, with prices that seem more Madrid than Mayfair! Friendly staff and the smooth sounds of Spain all add to the fantastic atmosphere. Whether you want to relax over a drink at the bar, snack on a few tasty Tapas dishes or enjoy lunch or dinner in the comfort of the restaurant, El Pirata is a great place to be.
David Fitzgerald-Elliott, Restaurant Writer