London embraces Spanish food scene

Bar Pepito is a little piece of Andalusia amid the hubbub of London's Kings Cross. Photo / Matt Cheetham
Bar Pepito is a little piece of Andalusia amid the hubbub of London's Kings Cross. Photo / Matt Cheetham

Spain is hot. From the world's tennis number one, Rafael Nadal, to the globe's top restaurant, El Bulli, it seems we can't get enough of all things Spanish, including sherry. Believe it or not, sherry is cool again. And to prove it, London has spawned a gaggle of sherry bars across the city, and people queue outside to buy a glass of fino or oloroso.

The Spanish food scene has already been riding a wave of popularity in the British capital but the first sherry bar is a relatively new addition (it opened in March last year). Bar Pepito is an offshoot of successful Spanish restaurant Camino and is a little piece of Andalusia amid the hubbub of London's Kings Cross.

Accommodating just four tall tables, the Andalusian-style bar is filled with 25-45-year-olds, with not a pensioner in sight. Owner Richard Bigg, says, "We loved sherry but it was the most uncool category in the world. I'm not trying to attract the vicar and your grandma." He quickly adds the elderly and the religious would, however, be welcome.

Choose from 17 sherries by the glass or try one of the bar's many wine flights: three 50ml glasses with suggested tapas. Yes, there is beer and wine on the list too but one-third of its revenue comes from sherry sales, and Bigg reports that drinkers who have never tried sherry before are discovering it's not just for those with a bus pass.

The latest opening comes from Spanish chef Jose Pizarro. The former head chef at Spanish restaurant group Brindisa, came to London 11 years ago barely able to speak a word of English. He has since written a Spanish recipe book and opened a self-named sherry and tapas bar. In this he has transported a piece of Seville's bar culture to the

London borough of Bermondsey, and it seems to have become a hub for the community. The local bobby on his bike pops in to have a chat and locals wave as they walk past. Since opening this year, his living room-sized bar has fed and watered 1400 customers a week. Clearly there's an appetite for a glass of sherry and acorn-fed jamon.

After waiting an hour to get into Morito in one of London's coolest foodie streets, Exmouth Market, a rebojito, a blend of dry fino sherry, lemonade and mint, slides down like fizzy pop. It's sherry's answer to a mojito or Pimms, and quenches the thirst of festival-goers in the hot climes of southern Spain. It would be rude not to have a couple of tapas to soak up the alcohol and the perfectly salty, crisp-as-it-should-be slow-roasted pork belly with cumin and lemon answers the brief. It certainly beats a packet of crisps and a pint of beer. And so it seems the Spanish win again.

Top sherry addresses

Capote y Toros: 157 Old Brompton Rd, London. Acorn-fed ham legs hang from the ceiling at this new sherry bar. It has more than 100 sherries by the glass, leaving even sherry experts befuddled, so opt for the expertly chosen flights. Part of the Cambio de Tercio group, the walls are painted in the group's signature yellow and magenta, with sherry barrels and wine posters adorning the walls.

Jose: 104 Bermondsey St, London

Morito: 32 Exmouth Market, London

Bar Pepito: 3 Varnishers Yard, Regent Quarter, King's Cross, London

- Herald on Sunday

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