After a brief hiatus, Pirata has found itself a new spot on Dongping Lu. First opened in 2014 by Ling Huang (former head chef of elEfante), the stylish tapas bar and kitchen was known to have some of the best Mediterranean fare around, and its presence has been unquestionably missed over the past year. Thus, Pirata's (and Huang’s) comeback has seen nothing but fully booked tables every night since reopening its doors in May.
The snug dining space is reminiscent of a small tavern you’d happen upon while wandering through Barcelona’s maze of stone alleyways. The menu offers a well-curated selection of small tapas-style dishes and modest sharing plates of simple, fine-tuned Spanish fare that occasionally bats its eyelashes at other global flavours – have your sautéed clams with either garlic and chorizo or Thai basil or chillies, for instance.
Like any good Mediterranean friend, Pirata offers you lots of cured, smoked, pickled and preserved things, from sobrassada, Iberico ham and Spanish cheeses to sardines and anchovies; olives, balsamic onions and stuffed cherry peppers in pools of olive oil. In truth, popping in for charcuterie picks and Spanish wine is a great shout. That said, you’ll be easily seduced by chargrilled, plancha and warm one-pot cazuela dishes: the chorizo and duck rice is worth the noted 45 minute wait, and something sexy happens when crunchy, oily garlic breadcrumbs mingle with runny orange yolks of fried eggs with asparagus migas.
Is there ever a time when charred foods don't entice? If you've eaten street-style corn from an ocean-side charcoal grill in Spain – heavily seasoned with fresh-squeezed lime running down your fingers and ashy bits sticking to your mouth – Pirata's magnificent golden ear will transport you there. The charred octopus’ spiralled leg, however, secures drooling Insta followers, but it’s relatively plain and served with an uninspiring partner of mayo – a condiment that lamentably really gets around in Spanish food.
Pirata's fare is not something that necessarily will blow your mind, nor change the way you think about Spanish food. What you'll find here are things enjoyed for their inherent flavour; served in ways that highlight their given qualities. Like knowing a tomato can be at its best when drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, Pirata treats its ingredients with understanding, not over-embellishment. Thus, there are few regrets to be found at these cosy tables, and those particularly keen on Spain's most humble dishes will deem themselves personally blessed by Pirata’s return.