Tucked away off of Charlotte Street lies shy and retiring Windmill Street, home of Drakes Tabanco, a small, traditional and totally charming Andalusian tapas and sherry tavern. It is the sister restaurant of the superb Barrica and a recent addition to Fitzrovia. With its modest white front (so modest you could almost miss it), light and airy interior and welcoming Spanish staff, Drakes instantly invites you into a different country and culture.
Now everybody knows that tapas is best enjoyed in a small group, so we visited Drakes on a double date for a Saturday lunch. We arrived and were greeted by a charming waiter who led us past the bar (which harboured stacked barrels of sherry) down a couple of steps to the lower level dining area which was wonderfully lit by a skylight above. At the back of the dining room is a traditionally Spanish counter with hanging meat, iberico pork legs and stacked loaves of bread.
If you are overwhelmed by the vast selection of delights on the menu, Drakes have thoughtfully drawn up a delicious sounding sherry paired tasting menu, however, we opted to order lots of small dishes between us, as one of the party was allergic to shellfish.
We started the would be feast off with Arbequina olives, bread and a slice of freshly cooked still warm tortilla as well as a glass of Fino Classic; a light sherry very similar to white wine. After the nibbles we moved on to the proper dishes – now being a foursome this gave us the opportunity to order a hell of a lot more dishes than one would in a pair, and we took full advantage of this which means that there are far too many dishes to individually mention, but here are our unanimous highlights:
The charcuterie board was seriously good, containing goose rillettes, smoked sausage, salchichon, iberico tongue and cecina as well as pickles and chutneys. Along with the cheese board which had a selection of British and Spanish cheeses, these were a real treat and perfect for sharing between the four of us.
The salmon gravlax, a beautifully generous piece of salmon with a lovely texture. The garlic & chilli prawns were big, juicy and the oil perfect for dipping our bread in. The beef short rib with crushed parsnips was melt in the mouth heaven and the rolled lamb breast with puy lentils had a wonderfully intense lamb flavour.
After the vast amount of mains, we were ready to pop, but since we were drunk and out of control greedy, we thought we would soldier on with desserts. When ordering the desserts (one of each) as well as a large glass of 25 year old Pedro Ximenez sherry, the waiter strongly urged us to order a slightly less sweet sherry. I recall his exact words were, “That’s an awful lot of sugar” In our drunken stupor we stubbornly ignored his advice and went ahead anyway, twenty minutes later feeling ourselves slipping into a sugar induced coma, we learnt our lesson on the price of gluttony – note to self and readers -listen to the waiters they know what they’re talking about.
Despite our failing pancreas’s we still managed to discover some smashing desserts to recommend to you (such dedication). Our must haves were, the apple & oat crumble with hazelnut ice cream – clearly the standout winner if ordering a dessert for yourself. It was warm, crumbly (obvs) and had just the right ratio of crumble to filling. If sharing, The Chocolate & Oloroso Terrine and the Vanilla Ice Cream, Malaga raisins & Pedro Ximenez together made a nice combo.
What felt like an hour was actually three and a half hours of pure indulgence in a relaxed and charming setting with fantastic food and superb service. If you want to escape to Spain for an afternoon, head down to Drakes on Windmill Street!
If go and you enjoy the sherry at your meal (which you will) you can buy a small bottle to take home for around £15.