But you don't survive for 20 years in the restaurant business in Mayfair without having something to offer and our friend, who is Mayfair based, tells us that, for those locals in the know, it is an extremely popular alternative to the famous names of Park Lane just a block away and that the restaurant is often packed with a regular set who love it. Our friend, who has excellent taste in food, appears to be included among that number.
Boasting more than 50 traditional tapas dishes you are utterly spoiled for choice here and choosing may take a few minutes. Or you can not choose at all. Our friend, who declared that he never looks at the menu while here (we think he knows it by heart), simply asked the manager to send out a selection. First to arrive of course is the 'Jamon Iberico pata negra, gran reserve', and it is sublime. The fat melts like butter in the mouth and while the meat is densely flavoured and fills the mouth with succulent umami. We end up requesting a second plate.
After that, the food keeps coming, and it is all done very well indeed. Deep fried medallions of monkfish offer a light crisp coating with the meaty fish rendered almost tender. Prawns are listed on the menu is several fashions and are always a favourite, and again, it is food you want to eat in a simple but effective style. If you prefer meat, there's plenty of that too and a dish like the lamb cutlets, fire meets protein, is a reliable crowd pleaser. What's more, prices are reasonable, especially given its Mayfair location, with most tapas between £4-8. Even the four lamb cutlets are just £10.95. Desserts, priced around the £5 mark, follow and are a little bit boozy - ice cream with Pedro Ximenez wine - pear poached in red wine - and offer a different, effective, but still modest way to finish what was without doubt a really good meal. Indeed, every plate that was delivered to our table went back to the kitchen empty.
Service is old school and there's a strong proprietorial sense among staff; most likely, some have been there since the start. If you do want to eat in Mayfair, don't want the formality or expense of the many Michelin starred names dotted around, but still want good food and a smile, El Pirata is an excellent alternative.