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Review: Dehesa – Modern Tapas Bar in Soho

BY Boon Koh
Published 7 October 2012
Our Review Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Dehesa is a sister to the ever-popular Salt Yard tapas bar, and has now been joined by another sibling – Opera Tavern. As I’ve never been to Salt Yard or Dehesa, but have heard lots of about these two excellent tapas bars in London, I thought it was about time I gave them a try.

Dehesa is located on Kingly Street, on a parallel street to the hip and trendy Carnaby Street shopping mecca. It has stiff competition – within a radius of a few hundred yards, there are lots of good eating places, not to mention drinking!

Located at the corner of Kingly Street and Ganton Street, Dehesa tapas bar is rather small inside – you can imagine that in its heyday as one of London’s hottest tapas bars, there would have been queues snaking out the door. As we had arrived at 6:45pm on a Friday, rather early for tapas dining, the restaurant was half empty. However, despite so many vacant tables for two, and having made a reservation, we were forced to share a table of four with another couple. Awkward customer service there – and this made the meal less enjoyable than it should have been.

Service was curt and as expected, although like many other restaurants in London, it has caught on to the trend of adding 12.5% service charge – this was rare in London even as recently as a few years ago. They did seem a bit chaotic though, delivering the wrong bread to us, and then the wrong dish to the couple next to us. I can’t imagine what it would be like when there is a full house.

The menu is divided into two parts – there is the bar snack menu, with charcuterie, hams, and cheese. Then there is proper tapas menu, organised by main ingredient (fish, meat, and vegetables). For the prices, we found that the portions are quite reasonable, more so than at the Brindisa tapas bars. And the menu shows imaginative modern twists to standard tapas, with hints of Italian, French, and English influences present in the dishes.

The Cornish crab souffle was interesting – and probably more British and French than Spanish!

Potato gnocchi with butternut squash, wilted spinach, and pine nuts was probably the highlight of the meal. While this looked like a simple dish, the gnocchi was cooked just perfectly, and the butternut squash puree gave the dish a heavenly sweet taste. The pine nuts provided the contrasting crunchy texture to the dish – a brilliant combination of ingredients I have to say.

Wild mushrooms with mozzarella in a honey sauce was inspirational as well. Light to eat, and shows the kitchen’s aptitude to getting the right mixture of flavours. The wild mushrooms (ceps I believe) and mozzarella are very mild flavour ingredients, and it really needed a strong companion, which came courtesy of the wonderful sauce. I was half tempted to order another portion of bread to dip in the honey sauce – that was how good it was!

Confit Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans was probably the most standard tapas dish we ordered. But we are partial to good pork belly, and couldn’t resist trying it out at Dehesa. However, this was the most disappointing dish out the five we had. The pork belly was slightly dry, and the beans were way too salty.

Grilled Sirloin Steak “Tagliata” with Portobello Mushrooms, Shaved Asparagus and Grana Padano was our most expensive dish, at £11.25, but was well worth the money. It is a big portion, with surprisingly lots of slices of rare steak, and a classic dish that has been done well. There’s nothing like good steak, mushrooms, and cheese. The thinly shaved asparagus was a nice touch, but felt a bit awkward on the dish though.

Overall, Dehesa met my expectations as one of the best tapas bars in London. While it isn’t getting as much hype as it used to, now that Spuntino and the others have opened, it still warrants its reputation as one of London’s best tapas bars. Especially if you’re looking for some imaginative and modern tapas dishes. The service could be improved, and the place is small. Yet it wasn’t too loud inside, and perfect for a romantic casual dinner. I will be back again!

Dehesa Tapas Bar
Address: 25 Ganton Street, Soho, London W1F 9BP
Getting There/Directions: Nearest Tube station is Oxford Circus. Walk down towards Liberty, and keep walking down Kingly Street. Approximately 5 minutes walk.
Reservations Required? Yes for Friday and Saturday evenings, but walk-in should be fine all other times
Official website: www.dehesa.co.uk