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db Eats: Morada Brindisa Asador

Brindisa, named after the Spanish term for clinking cups, started life in 1998 as a wholesaler of Spanish produce, from spicy chorizo to salted almonds. Founded by Hispanophile Monika Linton, the first Brindisa restaurant opened in Borough Market in 2004 ushering in a new wave of tapas bars in London and spawning many imitators.

Sister sites have since opened in South Kensington, Soho and Shoreditch, with newcomer Morada Brindisa Asador, a stone’s throw from The Palomar on Rupert Street, taking the tally to five.

Inspired by the likes of Asador Extebarri in San Sebastian, the focus of Brindisa’s fifth site is a wood-fired oven, and while you’ll find old favourites like croquettes and padrón peppers on the menu, no visit would be complete without sampling the slow-cooked delights of suckling pig and milk fed lamb – the smaller the creature, the more delicious it’s likely to taste.

The 75-seater space is the largest in the Brindisa stable. Action is centred around an L-shaped marble-topped bar lined with blood red leather stools. Ask for a space at the bar for a front row seat to the action, where you can catch every mouthwatering whiff from the grill and enjoy the theatre of dozens of chefs at work, buzzing about like worker bees. Above my head hang jamón legs and explosions of dried peppers, while underfoot are colourful Moorish tiles.

padrón peppers

Kicking things off in suitably Spanish style, I quench my thirst with a refreshing “rebujito” (£5.95), a favourite at the Feria de Jerez made by mixing fino Sherry with Sprite – the sugar helps maintain your energy levels at the fair, keeping you dancing the Sevillanas until the small hours.

My dining buddy went for a Gin Mare G&T (£9.50) served in a fish bowl glass garnished with vivifying rosemary and pomegranate.

Appetites whetted, it was time to munch our way through the menu. Beginning with a couple of tapas staples, the ham croquettes (£3.50) had feather-light crunchy coats and umami-rich, creamy centres.

Padrón peppers (£5.70) meanwhile, were textbook: salty, slightly bitter and one of our only encounters with anything green all evening. Morada is so meat heavy it would make veggies weep and run for the door.

Heaven knows how vegans would react. The “mojama” cured tuna (£6) was a curious little dish. Served in wafer-thin strips blanketed with chopped almonds, it was meaty in character, and tasted more like pork than tuna. The almonds added saltiness to the already salty slivers, but somehow the ensemble worked.

chorizo fritters

Even more fun were the chistorra chorizo ‘fritters’ (£4.50). Served in fairground fashion on sticks, the beer-battered bad boys were a Spanish take on corn dogs.

Fat, fluffy and pillow-like in texture, the batter was far lighter on its feet than I expected, and housed juicy, spicy strips of warm chorizo oozing with paprika in what’s sure to become the restaurant’s signature dish. Plump, silvery sardines meanwhile, boasted moist meat complemented by a crunchy kale salad, so fresh and so green.

The restaurant has taken the bold choice of keeping its wine list entirely Spanish, which I applaud. The country has so many enticing drops, running the gamut from bone dry to treacle sweet, it seems only right to celebrate the best of what Spain has to offer rather than forcing it to compete with the likes of France and Italy.

Prices are incredibly fair, with most wines available by the glass from £4.75. My Finca Allende Blanco 2011, one of Rioja’s most magnificent whites, came in at a reasonable £7.95, and offered aromas of fennel and lemongrass wrapped around a creamy, mineral core. The Sherry selection is also worth exploring, from the saline “AB” amontillado to the rich, nutty Abocado Alameda olosoro from Hidalgo.

suckling pig

Our main event – a gargantuan slab of sucking pig (£34) – didn’t disappoint. Called the “secreto Iberico”, it was the cut between a pig’s shoulder blade and loin, glistening with fat and boasting a rich, melt in the mouth flavour.

Miraculously, I still had room for cheese post piglet, which is just as well, as we were treated to a trio (£13.75) from Spain, the best of which was an aged Manchego, which charmed with its crumbly texture and nutty tang.

Encouraged to go one further and order dessert, a warm almond tart (£4.75) was hard to refuse, made all the more delightful with the addition of super fresh blood orange sorbet, which I could happily eat nothing but all summer long.

Morada Brindisa Asador is a welcome addition to the Brindisa family. Fun and slightly frantic, its meat-heavy menu won’t be for everyone – those on a fad diet who prefer their food lean and green shouldn’t bother coming. This is a restaurant that’s unashamed in its worship at the altar of meat.

But for those of a carnivorous nature, there is much to love. It might leave you with the meat sweats but a night at Morada is sure to give you sweet dreams. Later this month Brindisa opens a sixth site – La Bellvitja near Barcelona’s famous Boqueria market. It will be interesting to see whether the brand succeeds in Spain or gets lost in translation.

db rating: ★★★

Morada Brindisa Asador, 18-20 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DF; +44 (0)20 7478 8758

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