67 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PH. 020 7637 7713.
Upon recommendation of lapsus_0_calami (thank you!) I went for one of my regular "Girl's Night Out" dinners at Navarro's last night. It was a rather reduced group, actually there were only two of us, but we both agreed it was a wonderful evening, and definitely somewhere we're going to return to, dragging our other female friends with us.
Oddly enough, almost the entire top floor was "Girls Night Out" - a single romantic couple being seeded amongst the tables of two, three and four all-female groups. Meesha and I were pondering this phenomena, and came to the conclusion tapas is so popular with women as we like to pick at things during dinner, whereas men prefer to sit down to a slab of meat and hearty side of potatoes. A hugely-generalized theory I realise, but one I'm convinced holds a kernal of truth to it!
The decor at Navarro's is charming, with walls covered to midway with Spanish tiles and dark, decorative wrought ironwork lining the rooms. Tables and chairs are of dark wood with tile insets, matching the flooring. Although the tables are quite close and it got rather noisy later in the evening (we arrived at 7 and left a couple of hours later), it was a sociable rather than drunken noisiness. The bathrooms had a good standard of decorating and cleanliness.
The Spanish staff were all very pleasant and service was at a good pace - not too fast and not too slow. The first waitress had a little trouble with her English vs. my Kiwi accent as I was waiting for Meesha, Queen of the Late Arrival (though she was only 7 minutes tardy so it didn't really count at all), and my normal aperitif of Campari & Soda had to be surrendered to the more comprehensible choice of a Still Water.
To drink with dinner we each had a glass of the house Rioja, Navahas Tinto 2003/4. Meesha liked this immediately, but I didn't. However I found that once I'd let it breathe for a few minutes it improved immensely. The menu blurb describes it as "Dark plummy ruby, this is dry but exceptionally fruity with distinctively cherry-like fruit and overtones of warm vanilla oak" and that seems a fair enough description.
On to the meal! Our waitress suggested we order 2 - 3 tapas each, so following her suggestion we ordered:
BOMBAS DE PATATAS Y VERDURAS (£3.75)
A blend of creamed potatoes, vegetables and herbs, deep-fried and topped with alioli and pimenton.
These came as two little mounds on the plate, resembling nothing so much as a pair of Page 3 Girl breasts! Schoolboy humour aside, they were nicely cooked, and well - but not over - flavoured. I think I prefer them to the more usual order of fried potatoes in spicy tomato and chilli sauce.
ENSALADA DE NARANJA Y AGUACATE AL VINAGRE DE JEREZ (£3.95)
Juicy Seville oranges and avocado salad dressed with olive oil and vintage sherry vinegar.
Delicious! An excellent combination I will be using for my own home salads.
BOQUERONES EN VINAGRE (£3.95)
Fresh anchovies, marinated with garlic and vinegar, dressed with olive oil.
I just love this dish and always order it. Due to my fish intolerence I can only ever eat a couple of anchovies, but that's enough. I've persuaded several friends (whose initial reaction seems to always be to wrinkle their nose in disgust) to try them and like them. Navarro's anchovies were plump, exhibited the yielding sponginess of the obviously fresh, and mouthwateringly tasty. Meesha is now a convert too.
CHORIZO PICANTE AL COÑAC (£4.15)
Spicy Spanish sausage flambéed with brandy.
Another dish it's hard not to order. Unfortunately this was the only dud of the evening. Although the chorizo had the usual lovely piquancy, it was too thinly cut and overcooked - burnt in places. The tough texture ruined it. But as every other tapas was excellent, I'm quite happy to forgive them screwing this one up.
POLLO CON CHOCOLATE (£4.95)
Fillets of chicken breast, cooked with vegetables, spices, brandy and chocolate.
Meesha practically had a mouthgasm when she tasted this dish - which was rather amusing as she'd felt dubious about ordering it. I'd eaten other Spanish and Mexican savoury dishes with chocolate in them however, so I was expecting it to be good and I wasn't disappointed. The chicken breasts (there were two of them) were moistly tender and flavoursome, and the sauce was light, smooth and exquisitely balanced in flavour between the chocolate, spices and brandy. Definitely the star of the evening.
PULPO A LA GALLEGA (£5.95)
Galician style octopus served hot on a wooden platter with sliced boiled potatoes, liberally sprinkled with pimenton, sea salt and olive oil.
This ran a close second for place as 'best tapas'. The rounds of octopus were absolutely perfectly cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth texture, and the light dressing bought their taste out beautifully. Sadly this didn't get justice done to it as it was brought out later than the other dishes and we were too full to finish it off.
After all this we both felt stuffed. Next time, five dishes between two people is definitely the maximum. Dessert - although tempting-sounding - just didn't get a look in, and we rounded the evening off with a couple of cups of good coffee. The bill for the two of us, including extras of olives, bread, two glasses of wine, a bottle of water and two coffees, and also including 10% service charge, came to a very respectable £45.00. Not just tasty, but good value also. In summary, I was very impressed with the food, service, cost and atmosphere of Navarro's and I definitely pass on lapsus_0_calami's recommendation as this being an excellent restaurant to visit when next you feel in the mood for Spanish tapas.
NB: This is a very popular restaurant, so be sure to book. I booked the day before and they only had tables left for couples.