Condesa – A little piece of the Latin spirit in London

Peter Morrell enjoys the tapas fusion food in this new Covent Garden restaurant

The week before visiting Condesa I had been in Miami and the culinary scene there is dominated by a fusion of traditional Spanish Tapas with the food of Latin America. One night I remarked to my dining companion at dinner that London needed this style of cuisine. Back home and ‘Hé aqui’ tucked away in Maiden Lane just off the Strand I found the very thing offering the same style of food that South Beachers are raving about.

The owner is Daniel Caballero who left Mexico in 1998 to be inspired by flavours around the world. In early 2012 Daniel met Madrid born head chef Rafael Serrano who comes from a long line of foodies. They were the perfect duo to bring the Latin lifestyle to London and Daniel also owns the popular bar, Barrio, in Battersea.

The restaurant, which is named after the trendy district in Mexico City famous for its bars and cafes, is small and cosy and like its Miami counterparts has got a comfortable shabby chic appeal. You can either chose to sit at the bar or on high stools at the back of the room but wherever you are the large blackboard listing the current specials is visible.

Settled into our seats, we took a look at the menu while nibbling on a little pot of Kikos, toasted and spiced corn kernels and a plate of olives. To help sharpen our appetite my dining companion had a glass of Cordoniu Cava Brut while I indulged in my favourite aperitivo, a Manzanilla sherry.

The menu is short and simple, with a mix of cured meats, cheeses, pork and chicken dishes, salads and that most popular Peruvian icon, ceviche. For those not familiar with ceviche, it is fish which is pickled or ‘cooked’ in a citrus dressing for just a few minutes. Add in some onion, chilli and in Condesa’s case agave syrup and you have a delicious, fresh dish packing lots of powerful flavours.

We started with a mixed board of meats, the Chorizo Iberico and Pork Loin, both made with acorn fed pigs, and Cecina de Leon, lightly smoked 12 month cured beef which I particularly liked. Next up was a Mexican favourite, Pulled Pork Pibil, slow roasted to melting tenderness it was lightly spiced and came as a slider between two pieces of artisan bread and garnished with a green tomato salsa.

To go with this we had some waxy potatoes in a mildly spicy tomato sauce. Our final dish of the evening was the Tuna Ceviche, delicious, with cucumber and coriander adding extra interest.

The wine list represents the best of both Spain and Latin America with the bulk of the selection available by the glass, half and full carafe. I tried the Condesa de Laganza, a Spanish Tempranillo while my companion had the Errazuriz Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines were very drinkable and held their own well against the strong flavours of the food.

If your taste is for a longer drink then the beers on offer include draught Estrella, Red Pig from Mexico and lager from our own Meantime brewery. There is also a bottle of water on each table.

Our final indulgence was a coffee liqueur with a shot of tequila

I liked Condesa, the staff are very friendly and the food has captured that Latin fusion spirit. It is a great place to pop in for lunch, supper or a pre-theatre meal. Prices are reasonable, expect to pay around £25 per head including drinks and service

15 Maiden Lane
Covent Garden
London WC2E 7NG
0203 601 57 52

Review date 27th December 2012