La Farola on Upper Street, Islington, has just celebrated its second birthday, but judging by this visit to the north London Spanish tapas restaurant, there’s a very bright future ahead for it
Lots of places claim to be ‘neighbourhood restaurants’, but fail to deliver the requisite atmosphere and, more importantly, the good food. Fast approaching its second birthday, La Farola doesn’t need to make any OTT claims as it is, quite simply, superb – and, yes, a real neighbourhood restaurant.
The Spanish tapas experts really make you feel special, whether by actually getting a seat – on the night my wife and I visited, it was absolutely chocca – or by sitting by the large windows looking out to Upper Street as hungry locals peer enviously in. The service is superb, but it’s the clientele that also adds to the experience, with a real happy buzz in the air.
The menu is fantastic. Having not enjoyed tapas for quite some time, we weren’t sure how many dishes to order. Would six be enough? Surely we should opt for eight if small dishes? Our helpful waitress insisted the former and she was spot on. We plumped for two similar dishes in the salt cod croquets with bravas sauce and the enormous Bomba, deep fried potato balls filled with beef mince. I surprised myself, being the meat eater I am, that I adored the former.
The prawns sautéed with garlic, olive oil and fresh hot chilli peppers were large, perfectly cooked and quickly devoured by Karen before I even got a look in (she pointed to the Bomba, which as a vegetarian she couldn’t eat). Still, I had the crispy pork belly, by far the best thing I consumed at La Farola, tender meat with a delightfully crisp exterior.
The Empanadilla, deep fried filo pastry with pine nuts, spinach and goat’s cheese, was bursting with strong flavour, and Karen’s insistence on patatas fritas was probably a little unnecessary given what else faced us. We struggled to finish it all.
Once the meal was over, we didn’t want to leave. The night was still young, but we felt a tad guilty looking at the queue of people forming by the entrance. After all, the whole neighbourhood deserves to be a part of something so, so good.
Words: Mark Kebble
101 Upper Street N1 1QN; 020 7359 7707; lafarolacafe.co.uk