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November 1, 2013updated 29 Jan 2016 1:41pm

Sitwell Scoffs at Drakes Tabanco on Tottenham Court Road

By William Sitwell

They do great seating at Drakes Tabanco. It’s on Windmill Street, near Tottenham Court Road and it’s a Spanish gaff. You walk through a cosy bar filled with sherry barrels and down into the little restaurant. It’s all white walls and dark oak; stools, tables, chairs and bar with a couple of large photos of tanked-up Spaniards. Possibly not an obvious advert for sherry – drink a barrel of sherry and look wild-eyed like these knackered old geezers – but it sort of works.

I grabbed myself a bit of high seating at the back on the left. You sit high, with the wall behind you, a nice padded bit of backing and a tall table.

sherry barrel

Pictured left: Sherry barrels at Drakes Tabanco

So you can sit there, the two of you, side by side and looking down and across at the other diners slumming it on tables for two or four. It’s a good vantage point to both spy people arriving and beckon waiters. And it feels good for your back.

I wish more restaurants had seating like that. I also wish more restaurants served sherries straight from the barrel: classic Fino, 20-year-old rusty coloured deep and delicious Olorosos, sweeter rare Old India styles.

I remember a torturous lunch where I had to sip champagne with every course at The Savoy Grill. Yes, that’s right, torture. I reckon a little light electrocution at Abu Ghraib would have been less angsty.

My host, a top bod from a big champagne house insisted that champagne was a wonderfully versatile drink. So along came fillet of beef and he poured me another glass of champagne.

It was all too much so I roundly insulted him by asking for a glass of red.

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Sherry, on the other hand, with its dry, crisp spank me, love me qualities really can stretch across a menu.

At Drakes Tabanco the sherries come from Fernando de Castilla, the beautiful cellars of which are slap bang in the centre of Jerez.

The Fino we glugged with tiny Arbequina olives, almonds and tiny slices of cured pig’s tongue. We tasted an En Rama (unfiltered, more gutsy) along with pickled cockles, soft and wonderful salmon gravadlax, cured sardines and mackerel pâté. My favourite style of sherry, Oloroso, we drank with meltingly good pork cheeks with mash and rolled lamb breast. The latter I’d not come across before. They were small parcels of lamb, a little crispy on the outside and great with lentils.

Then came a sweeter sherry: a Pedro Ximinez. It was made for the vanilla ice cream with weathered and rich tasting raisons from Malaga.

This place is beautiful, simple and taps into the Polpo-style craze of informality, sharing and lots of little bits to eat. And there is sherry in its finest incarnations.

Go there. And spread the word about sherry.

Read more by William Sitwell

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