It’s a crisp winter’s evening, the type of evening that makes the streetlights glow somewhat brighter. The moon is rising over Piccadilly, the Ritz to my right, it’s a fantastic part of town, and feels like something out of a Disney movie.
I arrive at El Norte on Dover Street and am immediately shown to my seat. Cosy lighting and smiling staff welcome me as I pass excited parties and doe-eyed couples tucking into, what looks like, incredible food. The atmosphere is relaxed, which is a far cry from some of the stuffier establishments of Mayfair, keeping to its informal Mediterranean roots.
My guest arrived and we ordered a glass of the house red, Rioja, which isn’t my usual go-to as I prefer something less oaky, however, the wine was smooth and exceptional. We immediately regret not ordering a bottle. We are handed menus which we proceed to ignore whilst we chat amongst the hum of diners and low music. Eventually, we ordered which, let me tell you, wasn’t easy.
The menu boasts a mix of tapas starters, all of which we wanted, traditional paellas and seafood. We order, sip wine and soak in the warm surroundings. The décor is a gorgeous mix of low-level lighting paired with textures of marble and flourishes of green. It’s not traditional Spanish but suits its postcode with charm and elegance.
Food at El Norte
Our starters arrived, we opt for croquettes as I’m an absolute fiend for those little potato numbers. The flavours were outstanding and unlike anything I’ve had before. The traditional jamon literally melted in my mouth and my absolute favourite – haven’t stopped thinking about it since – goats cheese, pistachio and honey was utterly divine. I could have eaten ten. Just wow. More merriment and, yes, another glass of wine later our mains arrive.
Now, I usually don’t eat octopus but in an establishment like this, you just know it’s going to be exquisite, and my god was it. Grilled on a bed of slow cooked lentils and chimichurri it was truly the star of the show and the monk fish with a smoked tomato sauce, was it’s budding sidekick. Too accompany this we have the Spanish oven-baked potatoes and sauteed spinach with raisins and manchego cheese both of which are absolutely delightful.
The restaurant was opened by brothers Alberto and Arian Zandi in 2021, a tough time for any business however, they’ve clearly made their mark as it was full of customers on a Monday night. Since then, the formidable twins have gone on to open a few other restaurants within the city including Zuaya London. Unsurprising given the food quality here.
On Friday evenings El Norte throws “La Fiesta” a celebration evening serving bottomless sangria and cava. Traditional Spanish music is the backdrop to stunning performances from flamenco dancers. The energy is contagious and often turns the restaurant into a dancefloor. I hear it’s very popular among the regulars.
The evening flew by, with zero rush from our waiter too, in fact, they were more than happy to chat away whilst serving us, something that always goes down well with me. After much mulling over, we are advised to go for the Basque cheesecake, a sumptuous and delicate dessert which stole our hearts and, most probably, our waistlines too. We end the night with aroused taste buds and our shoulders drop a few inches.
I urge you to book a table, immediately.
19-20 Dover Street