What to do when you can’t get to Madrid for your tapas fix? That’s the question Omar Allibhoy asked himself when he landed in the UK eight years ago and found a serious dearth of decent tapas joints over here. So, after establishing himself at El Pirata De Tapas, now one of London’s best tapas bars, he set out to answer that question himself, creating Tapas Revolution. A culinary ideology as well as a restaurant chain, the idea is simple: it’s time to put tapas on the map. The start of this involved Omar travelling on his motorbike for two weeks, causing a storm by cooking tapas anywhere that would have him. Along the way, he earned the nickname of Spain’s Jamie Oliver, a champion of Spanish cuisine here in the UK.
A restaurant followed shortly — the physical counterpoint to Omar’s original brainwave. Launched in West London, it quickly became a roaring success, and soon Tapas Revolutions were popping up all over the city, and then the country. It seems the Brits didn’t have an aversion to tapas; they were just waiting for the right tapas to come along. Meanwhile, Omar himself has gone from strength to strength, winning a whole host of awards and regularly appearing on TV screens (most recently, Ramsay’s Best Restaurant on Channel 4).
Now, Tapas Revolution represents the best of Spanish culture, with fantastic food served up in loud, bustling hubs of energy. Following the philosophy that restaurants should ‘serve more than food,’ the atmosphere is always electric, with full crowds who flock in for Sangria and a good time every night. Alongside its full regular nights, the restaurant has started hosting Spanish-style fiestas, the most recent at its Shoreditch branch. Guests are treated to as much Sangria as they can drink, and Omar himself creates an enormous paella dish (think traditional, gigantic, enough-to-feed-a-village size) for the restaurant to sample. Flamenco dancers put on a show while you eat to the sounds of live music and clacking heels.
The food is worth coming for too, with plenty of Iberico ham mixed into steaming, creamy croquetas or served up solo on plates. There are classics, from tortilla to paella, with a few modern touches too, such as the stunningly presented Ensalada de Calabacín: courgettes topped with truffle and Idiazábal smoked cheese foam and a quinoa and hazelnut dressing. For a true indulgence though, there’s not much that can beat the Gambas a la Plancha, enormous plump prawns griddled and served with their shells still on. Essentially, Omar has created what he set out to do. If you can’t make it to Madrid, the answer is Tapas Revolution.
Tapas Revolution, 58 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London, UK, +44 20 7729 3330