Central London

Published on July 26th, 2017 | by Ben Southwood

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Cigala, Bloomsbury

Cigala opened in 2001, if I have my sources right, which is so far before my time that it barely even registers. I started eating in London restaurants in earnest in 2013, and most of the hundreds I’ve eaten in since then were opened six months—often six minutes—before I got there.

Going to restaurants with a pedigree just feels weird unless they’re older than America, like Wilton’s. But it shouldn’t, because restaurants can only survive if they can get people to visit them, and the fact that restaurant reviewing exists proves that most of us have relatively similar preferences over food. If it keeps going, that means it’s probably good.

When Cigala opened I get the impression that good Spanish food was hard to find in Britain. Of course, that’s far from the case now, with three Pizarros, three Barrafinas, and numerous other high end Spanish restaurants. I had a solid decent meal there that fit exactly with my expectations of a mid-range authentic family restaurant.

One starter was a pickled veg and fruit salad with cold pigeon and walnuts—gutsy and, it turned out, fairly inspired option, off a gigantic selection of starters and tapas. The bitter crumble-crunch of the walnuts was balanced out by the tender and earthy-meaty pigeon, and of course the tangy pickled veg. Very satisfying summer fare. We also couldn’t resist a Spanish omelette, which was delicate and comforting.

My main—lemon sole—was disappointing. The broccoli was a bit limp, the sauce didn’t taste of the proffered anchovies, and the fish was mushy without distinct fibres or flakes. It was also undersalted. Thankfully the ribeye steak was excellent: well seasoned, a nice garlicky herb sauce, ultra-tender and with the flavour that fatty cuts give, and an impressive char on the outside.

Desserts were unspectacular but did the job. Flan had the right texture and, paired with orange slices, was a refreshing and virtuous offering for the sunny season. An almond-based black cherry tart tasted what those tarts always taste of, but was perhaps not sweet enough, and this may sound weird but it may have needed seasoning to bring out the flavours. It didn’t taste There enough.

But the prices were decent and enough of the dishes did their jobs solidly, if without sparkle, that although I wouldn’t recommend you travel across town to Cigala, I’d certainly not put you off going there if you were in the neighbourhood.

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