First Things First
Before I tell you about my night at Sabor, a new Spanish restaurant in London, let me start off with something I need to get off my chest. Yes, the food served in a restaurant is important. Perhaps it is the most important thing about the restaurant. But the food in a restaurant is nothing without the service which brings it to your table.
You may eat the most incredible meal of your life. But if the service was poor or impersonal, there is a fair chance you will not go back to the restaurant in a hurry. If the food was good, or even just satisfying (not of the blow-your-mind variant, but decent enough) but the service made you feel like a king, there is a fair chance you will be back next week.
Of Crispy Shrimp and Waiting in Line
Let me be clear: the food at Sabor is a very confident combination of blow-your-mind and hit-the-spot. It is the flavors of Spain wrapped up into beautiful dishes and bold combinations. But the service made us feel like royalty. Expect the restaurant to be busy, especially if you are visiting on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. You will have to wait for your turn at the countertop, which faces the open kitchen and the chefs hard at work.
But this will be the most comfortable wait of your restaurant life. José Etura, co-founder and front-of-house guru, keeps you happily plied with camarones fritos (tiny crispy fried shrimp topped with a runny egg) and txakoli (a very dry, sparkling wine). Per his suggestion, we started with a white from the Basque country and ended with a rosé, the bubbles happily carrying us along all night. As we stood at a high-top table scraping up the last morsels of camarones, we had the pleasure of watching Etura and his team at work in the busy restaurant. Despite our hour wait we never felt forgotten, as he came back often to check in and see how we were doing.
Once seated at the Sabor countertop, our waiter took over where Etura left off. Pablo was from Galicia, the northwest of the country. He gave excellent advice on which dishes to go with, and kept our glasses topped up. I told him I had mixed feelings about chipirones en su tinta. This iconic Spanish dish is squid cooked in a sauce made of it own ink, which I have had in Spain before, but I have always found too mealy for my taste. He made sure to have us order the Sabor version with crispy hake.
He was totally confident in the restaurant’s ability to change my mind (a passionate waiter is always a good sign). And on a more personal level, he seemed genuinely motivated to make sure I finally tried the dish as it is meant to be cooked. I was not disappointed. The dish was my favorite of the night. The fried hake was crispy and savory and the perfect counterbalance to the smooth richness of the ink-sauce. Zingy alioli finished the dish. I scraped the plate clean.
A Spanish destination in London
Nieves Barragán Mochacho is the driving force behind the food and flavours. Together with Etura she opened Sabor two months ago, but the buzz has yet to die down. I can see why. Come prepared to love the wait, drink all night, eat with gusto, and be charmed by the service, the place, and the ambiance.
35-37 Heddon Street
W1B 4 BR
Tuesday – Saturday:
12:00 – 14:30
17:30 – 22.30
13:00 – 18:00
For mouthwatering previews, check out the Sabor Instagram