Dark tousled locks, carefully pruned beard and deep brown pools of kind-looking eyes, Omar Allibhoy smoulders like a freshly groomed Jesus. A perfect set of features for spreading a love and appreciation for the fruits of his homeland to the public, a mission that has already taken him on an 800-mile T-shaped (for ‘Tapas’ you see) tour of Britain. With just a motorbike, tent, sleeping bag and blogging apparatus, Omar rocked up at various locations with a sparse collection of Spanish ingredients to demonstrate the simplicity of tapas to the people.
Tapas Revolution, where I took the boy for a bite last weekend, is the culmination of the trip and the start of a much bigger venture for Madrid-born chef Omar.
I can’t help but wonder where he finds the time for all of this. A former protégé of El Bulli’s Ferran Adria, current reigning Head Chef at Notting Hill restaurant El Pirata de Tapas, and Observer Food Monthly 2010 Young Chef of the Year Award-nominee, Omar’s CV is impressive considering his annoyingly youthful age of 26. Even the profanity-spewing Gordon Ramsay has taken a liking to him, describing him as the ‘Antonio Banderas of cooking’ – which, although I’m not entirely sure what that means, sounds like a compliment.
With all this in mind, when we found the place – a tiny speck in the consumerist hive that is Westfield shopping centre, my initial response was far from esplendoroso. Tapas Revolution’s central location on the first floor mezzanine level, means it’s surrounded by a hoard of high street stores, some of which had queues of bag-laden shoppers spilling out the door, and just below it a disgustingly named frozen yoghurt place called Snog. I’d expected it to be bigger, flashier and more ‘I’ve worked at El Bulli before’ restaurant-like, but it is incredibly understated from afar. As soon as we were perched on one of the high stools, at the long curved pewter bar, my initial hesitations were dashed. Replaced by visions of dried chillies, garlic, Iberico hams hanging on display and the dishes our fellow diners were tucking into.
The menu, with its fake wine-stained trickery, teased with far too many delicious-sounding dishes to fit into one visit, boasting the sort of traditional, comfort-providing fare I’d expect from a hidden gem in a Spanish backstreet.
By the time we’d placed our order, the fact that we were sitting in Europe’s biggest shopping centre, on the busiest day of the week, was pretty much forgotten. Within minutes, all of our dishes had arrived, aesthetically pleasing and omitting grin-inducing sweet and spicy scents. The Carilleras stole the show, with tender pieces of braised ox cheek and rich, caramel-sweet Pedro Ximenez sauce – a must try. The quartet of Spanish cheeses too, an artisanal selection of the day being Manchego, Roncal, Idiazabel, and my favourite of all: deep, rosemary crusted Romao. Two out of three of the rib eye skewers were cooked perfectly medium rare, the slightly dry third evidently reluctant to leave the stove at the same time as the others. The acorn-fed Gran Reserva Iberico ham, the most expensive of Tapas Revolution’s impressive charcuterie selection at £8.25 a board, was delicately salty and undeniably delicious.
The paper cones of churros con chocolate had caught my eye early on, so we decided to finish off with those and some of the specially-commissioned coffee. Boy were they good, so good, I’d head back for them alone, and literally alone, they’re really rather too delicious to share. Long, sugary deep-fried donuts, powdered with cinnamon and sugar, and served with a glass of thick chocolate sauce.
Omar’s vision is to expand the brand nationwide; I just hope he manages to maintain the quality and intimate feel of this one. Next time you’re wandering around Westfield, ravenous from all that credit card action, debating between somewhere or other, head here. If not because of my glowing review, then to keep Omar’s dream alive.
Tapas Revolution, Kiosk K2024, The Balcony, Westfield London, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 7SL. Website.