Our favourite alternative takes on tapas and London’s best menus of small plates
Words Helen Brown
Spanish cuisine is eternally popular. We love it for it’s big flavours in small portions and relaxed dining style. A pick-and-mix of sharing dishes will deliver a huge range in taste and flavour. Unsurprisingly then, this trend is spreading. London’s wealth of un-Spanish eateries are jumping on the small plates serving wagon. From Indian snacks to Italian tidbits, alternative tapas seems to be the food trend in vogue. Here’s a few of our favourite restaurants offering up light-bites and sharing menus.
Blanchette Brick Lane
Blanchette East opens its doors to the London culinary scene and is the second outpost by the Alary brothers. The menu incorporates tastes of Southern France with spices from North Africa. From a selection of sharing plates try the crispy frog’s legs or Lamb tagine with apricots.
For fresh flavours, satisfying dishes and a cracking atmosphere, Polpo is your go-to. Try tasty small plates and prosecco in a setting reflecting the elegance of Venice. The menu offers the best from Italy and dessert is a must.
Enjoy a selection of modern Indian small plates amidst the classy interiors of Chai Ki’s Toddy Shop. Food is inspired by south India’s toddy-serving, roadside drinking dens. Flavours are authentic and traditional. An extensive choice of creative cocktails are available, along with feel-good mocktails. Our favourite is the breakfast menu where you can order a bacon bun with tamarind tommy-K.
Bar Douro is helmed by Max Graham and is the next in his series of consistently successful pop-ups. You might recognise Graham from his sell-out supper clubs. Those most notable are last summer’s Soho Farmhouse and his triumph at Pop Brixton. Bar Douro takes inspiration from a childhood spent soaking in the flavours of Porto. The menu showcases the very best of Portuguese culinary heritage.
The Shed serves seasonal and modern British plates in a fantastically rustic space. It comes from the Gladwin Brothers – of Rabbit Restaurant – who were brought up on a farm in West Sussex. This is where you’ll find the roots of the restaurant. The mouthfuls on the menu are incredibly moreish. Try their mushroom, Marmite and confit egg yolk eclair ahead of the Lulworth scallop dish.
Caravan serves small plates and dishes from a grandeur Grade II listed building. Think industrial-style décor with an open-plan kitchen and coffee roastery. The menu traverses the globe, blending East with West and everything else in between.
What started out as a makeshift taco shack in a Hackney car park is now a mecca of Mexican gastronomy. As the name suggests, the place affords a creative variety of delicious tacos. Also available and incredibly tasty is a selection of tostadas and tlayudas. Iberico pork from the wood grill gets top marks too.
This Lewisham eatery boasts rotating menus reflecting the freshest available ingredients. It’s the first venture from culinary couple Terry Blake and Yohini Nandakumar who aim to make the most of London’s local produce. Sparrow’s sharing plate menu is a clever curation of the best dishes from around the world. Try the fie spice duck, asian salad, peanuts and orange dressings ahead of the pan fried brill with tamarind curry sauce served with rice.