According to food critic Matthew Norman, food contributes less than 50% to the experience of eating out. With ambience, service, company, and drinks to consider, he's not wrong. Sitting at a long table in the cellar-like Drakes Tabanco, the company, sherry, and Rosita Voll (7.0%) definitely made up for the slight sloth of service and the Bakewell tart with the adamantium base. Then again, what was a dessert from 1,000 miles north of Madrid doing on the menu anyway?
Just off Oxford Street, Drakes Tabanco is a small Spanish restaurant that I walked past twice before finding the door. Aiming to recreate a traditional Iberian tavern, golden candle light twinkles off cherry red tables and dark haired waitresses with thick accents carve thin strips from a large mouth-watering ham sat on the bar. Having visited Benidorm, I can say they've failed. Not a Sky Sports poster, bottle of salad cream, or tattooed Brit in sight. A terrible recreation of Spanish culture.
The drink is not too traditional either. Here, they serve sherry, not warm cans of Stella. Given that my experience of sherry extends to a half-drunk bottle of Croft Original and a two-hour visit to the town of Masala, I'm limited to the description of 'sweet and sticky' for every sherry I try. They assured me this was good stuff though and Jay Raynor almost agrees.
Aside from that slice of Bakewell tart, the food - a variety of hams, cheeses, and meat heavy mains - was brilliant. With so much on offer, I should have taken notes, but sharing platters are far too distracting. Watching your dinner pass to other people before you get a chance to eat is sheer hell. Like a dog, you ignore everything else and follow the plate with your eyes, measuring how much others are taking and making damn sure you take the same - or more. Maybe next time I'll visit on my own.