Tabanco living, in the heart of London
Tabancos are enjoying something of a resurgence in Jerez, with old ones reopening and new ones springing up all over town. But the latest Tabanco to open its doors isn’t in Jerez, it’s in the heart of London.
Drakes Tabanco opened just two weeks ago in Windmill Street, Fitzrovia – a short stroll from Goodge Street tube station; the third venture from the sherry and tapas lovers behind Copita and Barrica. It’s quite a feat to be part of two renaissances at once: the rebirth of Tabanco culture and the reawakening of interest in sherry around the world. That’s serious trailblazing!
So, what’s a Tabanco?
Tabancos are where you buy sherry straight from the barrel in Jerez. You can have a glass or two, buy a bottle to take home or bring your own bottle and get it filled up. They serve simple tapas – cured meats, cheeses, perhaps a chunk of tortilla – and some of the newer kids on the block offer something a bit more substantial to eat. They’re also a good place to hear and see informal flamenco.
The Tabanco comes to London
Walk into Drakes and it’s quite obviously a Tabanco. The barrels behind the bar are not for show – owner Tim Luther was serving sherry from the barrel as we arrived.
And, oh, what sherries they have! This is serious stuff: the consistently fabulous Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla supply the sherry including some you won’t taste anywhere else.
They have Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez Viejo – not a usual Fernando de Castilla classification. These are sherries taken from their Antique range but from the 1st Criadera rather than the Solera – so the same awesome wine as the Antique range, just little younger.
Other exclusives are the hand-bottled Fino En Rama – at the time of writing, only bottled three weeks ago – and a Rare Old India, an off-dry blend of 90% Oloroso and 10% Pedro Ximenez which is apparently selling like hot cakes.
And finally one of my top five sherries ever – the Antique Palo Cortado. I should’ve brought a sleeping bag so I could move in permanently!
I’ll be reviewing the Fino En Rama separately over the next couple of weeks. But here’s a trailer: smooth, subtle and complex. Very very drinkable, so I brought a bottle home!
I should probably mention here that they also have an interesting selection of Spanish craft beers and a good wine list. I brought a non-sherry drinker along, and he was a happy bunny too.
My kind of takeout
As well as offering these sherry delights in the Tabanco, Drakes sell bottles to take away, will fill your own bottle and have a small but excellent selection of hard to get hold of sherries: Gutiérrez Colosia Solera Familiar Palo Cortado, a range of Emilio Hidalgo sherries and a small selection El Maestro Sierra.
And did I mention the food?!
Drakes is considerably cleaner and more salubrious than some Tabancos I’ve spent time in (El Pasaje in Jerez still displays it’s 1927 hygiene certificate and clearly hasn’t been cleaned or decorated since). It’s also not your average ham ‘n’ cheese joint. The tapas selection is extensive and interesting. There’s also about 6 mains. We couldn’t decide what to have, so took Carlota the manager’s suggestion of 3 tapas to share followed by a main to share.
Cured ibérico pork tongue cut into thin slivers was rich, delicious and moreish. A fantastic match to the Amontillado Viejo.
Then came goose rillettes with cornichons and crusty bread. This was a bit rich for me – even half a tapa was almost overdoing it.
Next up was the star of the show: smoked scallop with avocado purée. Oh my goodness – a total taste sensation! The strong smokiness meant that it held its own against the Palo Cortado that I’d moved into by then.
Tapas polished off, we shared a ración of Carillada de Cerdo – pork cheeks cooked slowly with Oloroso and hazelnuts, served with creamy mashed potatoes. This is one of my favourite dishes and didn’t disappoint. My colleague was new to the joy of pork cheeks and is now off in search of the recipe!
I didn’t have room for dessert, but had some anyway. Vanilla ice cream with Malaga raisins and Pedro Ximenez poured over. Enough said 🙂
So I left Drakes with a full tummy, my taste buds singing and a little bag of takeout treasures. Roll on my next visit to London – I need to check out the contents of the rest of those barrels.