Thursday, 19 May 2011

Capote Y Toros, West Brompton

Within a few doors of each other in West Brompton, the leafy little stretch of Old Brompton Road that's posher than nearby Earl's Court but not quite South Kensington proper,the same proprietors operate Cambio de Tercio - reputed to be one of London's best Spanish restaurants - Tendido Cero, a traditional tapas bar, and now Capote y Toros, a ham and sherry bar to which I was invited - you might say 'summoned' - recently by my good pal, Spanish food buff and culinary girl-about-town Rachel McCormack.

Let's just contemplate the beauty of that concept for a moment: a ham and sherry bar. A bar specialising in Spanish ham - the really good stuff, from pigs fed on acorns so that their flesh becomes all fat and nutty and sweet - and sherry, dozens of different varieties of it from the palest dry Fino to treacly dark Pedro Ximenez, as well as an all-Iberian wine list. In addition to the (amazing, silken) jamon, there's a list of about twenty tapas, most of them using sherry as an ingredient. Even in Spain such places aren't all that common, so for one to pop up in London is a rare treat indeed.

The name 'Capote y Toros' refers to bull-fighting, toros being bulls and capote the dual-coloured satin cape worn by the toreador. It's a theme which runs through the whole room, the pink and orange walls covered with bull-fighting photos, posters and memorabilia (though not, you'll be pleased to hear, the plaintive-eyed heads of real champion bulls which looked down from the walls of a similarly-themed bar I once visited in Guadalajara).

Between seven of of us - an opinionated, rag-tag collective of Twitter pals comprising three publicans, two wine experts, Rachel and myself - we ordered almost everything on the menu and it should tell you all you need to know that none of us found a single fault with anything. From the simplest nibbles - Manzanilla olives and roasted almonds - to the truly inspired - curls of wafer-thin, shaved foie gras drizzled with a Pedro Ximenez reduction and sprinkled with cracked black pepper which I am still dreaming about - it was all magnificent and several dishes had to be re-ordered.

When you've loved everything it's hard to pick out favourites, but I'd recommend particularly the butter-soft, yielding pork cheeks with potato puree in sweet Oloroso, Piquillo peppers stuffed with oxtail and the best pulpo a la Gallega I can remember having since a friend's Gallician mother introduced me to this gorgeous paprika-spiked medley of octopus and potato. Puddings were imaginative and excellent, especially a mousse of sweet Oloroso sherry and caramelised figs and Pedro Ximenez ice cream with boozy raisins and Macadamia nuts. I did find portions of puds a little on the stingy side for the £4.75 price tag, but that could easily have been my distended stomach talking.

And with it, of course, there was sherry, a £12.50 flight of five varieties each from minerally, salty Manzanilla and Fino, through richer Amontillado and Oloroso, up to sticky, sweet Palo Cortado all served in helpfully-labelled glasses for the memory-impaired. Consumed in that order, each brilliantly complemented the food served alongside it; the flight has been matched to the menu flow with evident expertise.

This huge abundance of food, our sherry flights, a couple of bottles of wine and one of Cava with our puds - plus service - came to a very reasonable £45 a head. Less gluttonous/dipsomaniacal diners will probably average a spend of about £30 and you could easily pop in with a pal, share a plate of ham, wash it down with a sherry each and leave with change from a twenty. Service is friendly and proficient, the crowd buzzy - the place was deservedly packed on the night we visited - and, although he reminded us of Raw Sex, a guitarist added to the authentic atmosphere. It's a lovely place not only to eat but also to be.

It will be obvious that, for the second time running, I've been bowled over by a real local gem. With new, central London openings showing no sign of abating, it's easy to forget that there's a culinary world outside of W1. With Capote y Toros on their doorstep, the lucky residents of SW5 might rather you did.

Capote y Toros, 157 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ Tel: 020 7373 0567 (but NB: no bookings)

Capote Y Toros on Urbanspoon


  1. Lovely post Hugh it was a great night. Just need a slight disclaimer, I just organised the night for some FUN (that and I'm a sherry lush) I don't do anyone's PR.
    The #sherrymassive shall return there and also go to Jose's another night.

  2. Wowsers, my first disclaimer! Whatever next, a super-injunction?

    Happy to point out though that this was indeed very much - in fact purely - a social occasion and not in any way a PR-led exercise. But if my enthusiasm for Capote y Toros serves as good PR for them, then I'll be delighted!

  3. What a superb find! And, as ever, reviewed with such clarity and detail.

    I am currently squealing with excitement at the very idea of a ham and sherry bar. It's reasonable too. I want to run out of my office right now and hail a taxi for Spanish noms. Sadly, whilst the ham would be fine at lunchtime, they frown on employees returning from lunch several glasses of fino down. Killjoys.

  4. Abel Lusa is one of the best restaurateurs in town if he was a football manager he would be Mourinho - attention to detail is amazing - he has given us another gem !

  5. Perdita - what sort of savages do you work with that they don't encourage lunchtime sherry drinking?! I believe in Spain it's actually compulsory!

    Gastro1 - Definitely a 'gem' - one of those rare places that just gets everything completely right from the outset.


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