Many a knowledgeable judge considers Cambio de Tercio on Old Brompton Road to be the best Spanish restaurant in London. A visit was long overdue then, especially given its close proximity to my apartment. The restaurant was still fairly empty when we arrived at 7.30pm on a Thursday evening but the crowds soon started to file in, creating a vibrant atmosphere to match the colourful interior and striking paintings adorning the walls.
We ordered exclusively from the tapas menu on this occasion, beginning with an excellent Iberico Pata Negra Ham “5 JOTAS SANCHEZ ROMERO CARVAJAL” toasted bread & tomato – top notch ham, light and airy bread, and the surprising star of the dish, a piquant tomato salsa – Cambio was off to a flying start.
Next to arrive was Our famous chilled gazpacho with lobster and Cherry sorbet that was appetising and refreshing but, despite its many virtues, still felt a little lightweight for what was supposedly the restaurant’s signature dish – don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad at all; in fact it was very nice, but struck me as a dish perhaps better suited to being an amuse-bouche to whet the appetite, rather than something that supposedly showcases the very best that the restaurant has to offer. The over-sized serving was ill-advised too – less is sometimes more, and that would certainly have been the case in this instance.
At this point, with its signature dish having proven somewhat underwhelming, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit concerned that this was going to be yet another case of a promising restaurant flattering to deceive, but I needn’t have worried – this meal was to scale far greater heights.
Tuna tartar, tomato seeds, creamed avocado, salmon caviar was very good, the accompaniments really enhancing the tuna tartar - particularly the burst of saltiness from the salmon caviar, which lifted it very nicely. The “new spicy Patatas bravas” was superb; a brilliant re-make of a simple classic – great, creamy alioli; tangy, spicy tomato sauce, and potato encased in a deep fried, crisp potato crust.
Char grill Galician Octopus, potato parmentier, paprika oil featured a good mix of textures – springy octopus against the gooey potato parmentier; and flavours – a hint of spiciness imparted by the paprika oil. Caramelised millefeuille of Foie gras, smoked eel, baked apple was a really clever bit of cooking, even if the balance of foie gras and apple was skewed a little too much in favour of the apple. Prawns “a la plancha” garlic-parsley oil lacked the excitement and inventiveness of some the dishes that came before it, but was still a fine rendition. Grilled chop of “Acorn feed Iberico pork” with chorizo and potato cream, figs vinegar caramel and Grilled lamb cutlets with thyme and garlic Piquillo peppers were both cooked perfectly, with a very agreeable charred taste to the meat; the combination of the pork with the chorizo and potato cream working especially well.
Desserts were decent - we shared three - “THE ALL LEMON DESSERT” airy sponge, ice cream, custard, sand; Apple and vanilla millefeuille, pear chutney and thyme-basil ice cream; White chocolate ganache, pistachio, passion fruit, ginger ice cream, but not up to standard of the tapas.
In a nutshell…
Every single dish (bar the desserts) was good, many were great. Creative, exciting food; a lively yet relaxed atmosphere; thoughtful service that ensured dishes came staggered rather than en-mass as they often do at other tapas bars (not that this is just a tapas place – it is so much more) – Cambio de Tercio is a slick operation more than deserving of all the accolades it has been showered with. A Michelin Star surely is long overdue. The best Spanish restaurant in London? I would be mighty surprised if there is one in the capital better. I certainly haven’t found one.
Cambio de Tercio
163 Brompton Road, London, SW5 0LJ
Average Price: £40-£50