Hispania is a new, high ceilinged, vault-like restaurant in the centre of the Square Mile, and yet it has captured the comfort and warmth of an intimate, long-time favourite taverna.
The dining room is beautifully lit and a golden glow fills the space; seating is spaced in that way that makes you feel in the middle of the buzz without being overlooked or overheard. The menu politely carries some reliable tapas dishes, but doesn’t shy away from bolder choices and the less familiar.
The Ibérican ham was sublime – opt for the hand carved when you order, and the cheese board was a really strong selection of fine Spanish cheeses.
Fully aware of how predictable this is but we opt for the croquetas and the team quite rightly advise that we try both the Ham and Hispania variants – the latter a punchier, meatier version but both fried golden brown with a delicious crunch.
Next came Gambas Al Ajillo which were crispy and pungent with the garlic – really addictive. But then came the shining star: Arroz Negro. The rice was peppered with finely chopped prawns and cuttlefish and was beautifully seasoned and coloured with the squid ink.
My previous experience of this dish has always been a pitch black, gloopy plate of rice which totally underwhelmed, so this took me by surprise. It was delicately flavoured, well cooked and the bite on the small fried sea food nuggets a great contrast to the warm, juicy, fat rice grains.
I made a return visit to Hispania a few weeks later – on a cold, blustery, autumnal afternoon in the City, the warm glow, delicious muscat and a second round of Croquetas were absolutely what was needed.
I would recommend Hispania for office parties as much as I would for first dates – a rare combination of uses. Hispania offers authentic Spanish food in London, and I can feel the Arroz Negro already calling me back for visit number three.
If you’re a fan of tapas restaurants, read our reviews of El Pirata in Mayfair, El Pirata Detapas in Notting Hill or Boqueria in Brixton. Or head to Spain and stay at Hotel Urban in Madrid or Corral del Ray in Seville.