Last Updated on December 23, 2022
Christmas Cake fit for a King!
Christmas is coming and in London Unattached we are all thrilled with the promise of festive treats ready to tickle our taste buds. On that note, we’ve been asked to review the stylish upscale Spanish restaurant El Norte which recently added interesting and elegant-sounding seasonal desserts to its menu – but more on that later!
El Norte is located on Mayfair’s Dover Street, not far from the Royal Academy. It offers a ‘style menu of sharing traditional Spanish dishes with a modern and upscale twist’ and comes from the same group that runs the sexy Knightsbridge Latin American restaurant Zuaya, and Como Garden, a lively Italian eatery on Kensington High St.
The first thing that struck me when I entered El Norte was how it looked in Spanish. The space is spacious and stylish with tufted light fixtures and benches, green and chestnut rugs, and embossed walls and banquettes in swirling fabrics.
To add to the excitement Tuesday night there was a Spanish guitar band with a nice cahon singer and player adding to the atmosphere.
The bar has a special Sangria menu (did I mention it’s open until 1.30am, on weekends. perfect for a late night post-theatre outing) as well as a list of classics and some drinks that are completely new to me. We chose cocktails and mocktails which were presented beautifully topped with edible flowers.
Flamenco combines tequila-infused chili, Tio Pepe, cherry blend, egg white and simple syrup to create a fiery concoction with a real kick and a hint of sweetness. My Lemonade Pea Tea mocktail mixes Indian Butterfly Pea Tea with lemon juice and sugar for a luxurious and refreshing lemon iced tea drink.
The menu is divided into Para Picar (Squibbles), Ensaladas and Crudos (Salads and Raw Dishes), Carnes (Meat and Poultry), Pescados Y Mariscos (Fish and Seafood) and Para Acompañar (Sidees). El Norte sources most of its produce straight from Spain bringing in steaks from Galicia, olives and olive oil from Córdoba, and tomatoes from Andalucía to feature in our first courses. Pan Tumaca is a classic Spanish toast starter with tomatoes and olive oil. The warm crusty bread still soft and slathered with the self-serving sweetness of tomatoes and olive oil and salt – it was the perfect way to start our meal. The crunchy croquetas have a delicious interior of tangy goat cheese and spinach, topped with pistachio crumbs and the sweetness of honey sprinkled on top.
A glass of Marques de Riscal Verdejo is crisp and refreshing with a hint of citrus. But it lacked the body to match our tortillas, Stuffed with potatoes, shallots and egg and then topped with truffle and manchego shavings, this was sensational and one of my standout dishes of the year. Possibly the fanciest tortilla in London!
Our last starter was a sweet surprise. Fried eggplant discs covered with brown sugar and then topped with feta and honey.
And then on to the mains. Pulpo La Brasa is an unpretentious dish of grilled octopus cooked in a chimichurri marinade with slow-cooked lentils, firm wedges of dry-roasted garlic and a dash of anchovies for a bit of bite making a great winter dish. A glass of white Rioja with its tropical fruit notes is perfect for this challenge!
Perfectly cooked wild sea bass fillet served with savory sweet tomato and red chili sauce. With its slight acidity, it is a great coating for octopus. A side of crispy, juicy and perfectly grilled asparagus comes topped with a thick layer of rich almond Romesco sauce topped with a thick sprinkling of almond flakes.
For dessert, we have a slice of the Roscón de Reyes celebration cake that is eaten in every household in Spain on January 6 (Three Kings Day – el día de Los Reyes Magos). For the Spaniards, January 6 is the real Christmas Day celebrated with food, gifts and parades. The cake has 3rd century pagan roots. There is a tradition of dried beans being hidden inside with the lucky recipient being King of kings for the remainder of the day. If you find peanuts in El Norte, your dessert is right at home! The crown shaped cake itself is encrusted with baby gems of candied fruit and has a light brioche style cake with a delicious sweet chantilly cream filling.
We had a great meal with charming service at El Norte where they have lifted some of the classic dishes of regional Spanish cuisine to another level. Restaurants may charge Mayfair prices but with great food, service, surroundings and Christmas specials you get the full Mayfair experience. Perfect for a hot date or a special treat!
19-20 Dover St, London W1S 4LU