We arrived at Drakes Tabanco having heard this is a new, yet subtle Spanish tapas bar in Fitzrovia focusing on authenticity, simplicity and the people. We checked out the menu which is Spanish but has British inclinations too. The idea behind this sherry and tapas bar is that when Sir Francis Drake came back from his travels he kick started the sherry industry and so the menu reflects this era. The restaurant is small with a little sherry bar offering what they call ‘real sherry’ that is stored for years and is dry, and full bodied. Tabancos are unique as they are served sherry straight from the barrel and Drakes Tabancos serves just them. We were early but this did not seem a problem for the incredibly helpful Spanish waiters and they sat us down at a lovely table near another beer where they prepared cold food and sliced big legs of ham. The small restaurant is downstairs and is light with black and white prints of Spanish generations. I think as the place was so cozy, it would have suited to be a little darker and maybe use candles instead of bright lights.
There were two menus but choose to have the tasting menu as it gave a nice selection ofunusual tapas and also came with sherry to par. Now as regular readers know, I like my wine, but have never tried sherry so this was a first.
The first course was compiled at the cold food bar next to where I was sitting. This consisted of picked cockles served on soda bread and a seaweed butter and served with a classic Fino – a light sherry. Our waiter painstakingly explained the ingredients in the dish and their origins or relevance to the dish. He then went on to explain why the Fino worked so well with the dish – we later learned it was his first week and although being from the local region of Spain we were still surprised at his knowledge. The pickled cockles were laid on the pre-buttered bread and as stated were freshly prepared so that the bread did not soften with the pickle. I adored the seaweed butter which was salty and yet had a light tang.
We were then served smoked scallop with avocado puree, cured sardine and dill with the Fino en Rama. Again this was explained in depth and the Fino had more depth and was aged longer to create this intensity. The scallop was sliced through the middle so that we both had two large disks of scallop. I was slightly nervous that the fish would be too smoked especially as scallops are so light in flavour but they were cooked through and very light in flavour, remaining their pearl colour. The avocado puree was smeared on the side and was tangy and light, matching the scallops beautifully.
We were then served our first warm dish which was slow cooked egg yolk served with leeks and romesco. This time the sherry was called ‘Amontillado’ which was much more golden in colour and was my favourite at that point as it was dry but had a hit of oak at the back of the mouth. This dish really shone for us as we both agreed we would not have picked this on the menu but it really was a winner. This shows the benefits of having a tasting menu I suppose. The dish was served in a small circular bowl and served a bright red sauce seasoned with spicy peppercorns and mixed with slow cooked leeks. In the middle was a egg yolk that was barely cooked so that the white membrane had turned opaque keeping the golden yolk together. The dish was outstanding and if you go there I strongly suggest you order it despite its unassuming name.
The next course was served with a rare sherry called ‘Oloroso’ which was very intense and golden in colour. We had the option to have either the braised pig cheek or the short rib of beef. I went for the pork cheek and was pleased with my choice as this came out piping hot and the cheek literally feel apart when touched with the fork. The potato puree with flecked with toasted hazelnut and was hearty. My partner ordered the short rib which was served with crushed parsnips and thyme jus. Now the rib was fatty so I am biased as I don’t like too much fat no matter how tender but I have to say it made the meat so tender and melted in the mouth. My only criticism here was that it was not warm enough and so lost some of the flavour.
After our main course was served we were given cheese and biscuits. This was Zamorano Cheese – a local cheese from the area and topped off with either quince jelly or Malaga raisins. The cheese was hard, milky and subtle and worked well with the quince and the huge dried raisins that was pleasing to the eye This was served with a much sweeter sherry called ‘Old India’ which was supposed to be one of their most rare sherry’s and was very sweet, golden and aged.
Our final course was hazelnut ice cream with a chocolate sauce and confit orange peel. I loved this as a dessert as I do not generally have a sweet tooth this was a great hit for me. This was served with Pedro Ximenez sherry which was much darker sherry, very sweet and I felt a little over powering for the dish. It tasted as though someone had juiced a raisin.
Included in the tasting menu was a coffee so we both ordered espressos to waken us from our fuzzy heads from the strong sherry. We loved the fact that the staff really cared if we liked the food, it was personal to them. They took care to talk us through each ingredient choice and really listened to our feedback. This place is trendy without meaning to be so. It is small, ran by a small team who are incredibly friendly. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:
Food Atmosphere Service