Recently we were pleased to visit Bilbao Berria in St James’s to sample their menu as we’d heard the restaurant was recognised for its outstanding selection of pintxos and it’s unique fusion of Basque and Catalan influenced flavours. We were also interested to know that not long ago they won ‘Spanish Restaurant of the Year’ at The Latin UK Awards.
Bilbao Berria opened last year and is the seventh addition to this company’s portfolio. The other restaurants are based in Barcelona, Bilbao and Formentera.
The restaurant offers a smart and elegant decor spread over two floors. On arrival we were guided to our seats downstairs where we settled behind an artfully constructed wrought ironwork corral forged in the centre of the room. The open kitchen was in view so we could see the chefs at work; skillfully preparing and cooking food.
The sommelier revealed the highlights of the extensive wine list recommending a white wine Avi Ton (2011) made from the white grape Xarel-lo – which is specially grown in Catalonia and used in the production of Cava. Bright, crisp and aromatic, it was a great accompaniment to freshly made pintxos. Two dishes; the jamón Ibérico croquetas and kataifi prawns with spicy tomato and garlic purée arrived first. Both were well received, whetting our appetite for the plates to come.
Throughout the night we experienced a variety of flavours, colours and textures. Two of our favourites were the tuna marmitako with tomato salad and also the char-grilled octopus with smoked potatoes. The head chef Leo had given the tuna marmitako a modern twist, replacing the traditional fish stew with a deconstructed mix of thickly sliced seared tuna and fish carpaccio.
The egg ravioli with ham infusion and straw potatoes was also a pleasant treat- the combination of textures worked really well and transported us through a culinary adventure.
The following dishes were washed down with a welcomed glass of Mileto Edicion Limitada rioja. The Sommelier reminded us that the rioja grape varieties include; tempranillo which forms the base of the blend with garnacha (grenache), mazuelo (carignan) and graciano making up the balance.
The highlight of the night was the pork belly with quince aioli, pumpkin purée and Thai sauce. The pork was cooked for 12 hours and melted in our mouths. Another dish which was particularly fine and slow cooked was the lamb neck with olives and hazelnut crumble, caramelised pearl onions, garlic sauce and rosemary foam.
To finish, we were thrilled to devour the chili chocolate with olive oil sorbet along with the Baileys trifasico. A perfect pair of desserts to end the evening on a sweet note.
On our way out we noticed the well stocked wine cellar which is partly visible upstairs for guests to browse and select a preferred bottle to accompany their meal. The jamón Ibérico legs were also on display and are hand carved by the restaurants Jamoneros, experts, adding a point of interest for the diners.
The staff were knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. All in all we enjoyed the modern adaptation of the Spanish and Basque dishes and thought they worked well. We look forward to visiting again soon.
Bilbao Berria (2 Regent St, London SW1Y 4LR)