Monday, 4 April 2011

Capote y Toros

Sherry is having a moment in London. No longer the preserve of grannies at Christmas, a slew of new bars is helping inject a dose of much-needed sex appeal into the category. This week, Capote y Toros – a small Sherry bar with big ambitions, opens on Old Brompton Road.

The Sherry boom can be traced back to last March when London got its first Sherry bar, Bar Pepito, a 30 square metre slice of Andalucía in King's Cross. First the wine industry came in their droves, but soon the general public, having heard the hearsay, arrived in search of a new drinking experience. With Sherry sales per square metre higher than at the adjoining Camino restaurant, pioneering Pepito was the litmus test, and its success seems to have spurred others to follow.

I broke the news of Capote y Toros on, having found out about the venture, spearheaded by Spanish restaurateur Abel Lusa of Cambio de Tercio fame, while researching Sherry on the net. As a thank you for bringing the story to light, Lusa kindly invited me and my DB colleagues to try Capote y Toros for size last week, before the flock of enthusiastic wine scribblers descend upon the bar this week.

Taking the Sherry bars of Andalucía as his inspiration, Lusa has been so successful in his recreation, that after a Sherry or two you feel like you're in Jerez, from the flamenco music belting out of the speakers, to the bullfighting photos splashed across the walls, leaving little space for the saffron yellow paint (echoing the colour of the sand in Seville's Maestranza bullring) to poke through. Hanging from the ceiling are legs of Osborne Cinco Jotas ham – like Pepito's hook up with González Byass, Lusa has linked with Osborne, who ship him six hams a week.

The Sherry 'bar' takes up almost the entire main wall, full of small bottles standing to attention like soldiers. The list is ambitious – 100 Sherries, 50 of which are available by the glass, somewhat dwarfing Pepito's 15. "We already have the largest Spanish wine list in London at Cambio de Tercio, so why not have the largest Sherry list too," Lusa tells me by way of explanation. The bar also offers a selection of fine and rare Sherries bottled exclusively for Capote y Toros from specially selected butts through a link up with Erhmann's owner Peter Dauthieu.

Aside from single copas, Sherries are served in flights of five 50ml glasses covering the entire flavour spectrum from bone dry Fino to tooth-tinglingly sweet PX, to introduce novices to the puzzling array of styles. On our visit, we began with Osborne Fino Quinta, served in an elegant, Champagne-like flute glass with salted almonds and Manzanilla olives – a simple but incredibly effective match. We moved on to La Goya Manzanilla, which was paired with traditional pan con tomate, salty sardines and a refreshing goat's cheese salad.

Tasting the Fino and Manzanilla side-by-side, I was struck by how strong and Marmitey the Fino seemed alongside the more elegant, refreshing Manzanilla. We then went nuts with Gutierrez Colosia Amontillado from San Lucar, which proved a perfect match for the pata negra Cinco Jotas ham, and the jerky-like cecina – salted, air-dried beef, served rustically on a piece of paper. Amontillado and good quality Spanish ham is one of the best food and wine matches imaginable – the Sherry bringing out the nuttiness of the ham and vice versa.

Our evening got ever-more indulgent with the next match, which proved the highlight of the night: Williams & Humbert Dos Cortados Wellington 20-year-old Palo Cortado with melt-in-the-mouth strips of foie gras drizzled with PX (pictured). When the waitress brought it over, we thought the chef had snuck it in from a nearby kebab shop, such was its striking resemblance to a Doner, but it tasted heavenly – possibly the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. We were all in raptures over the beauty of the dish, and the brilliance of the wine match.

The lamb sweetbreads that followed were equally intriguing. As soft as a cat's ear, they made a wonderful match for the Palo Cortado, universally voted the wine of the flight. Full by this point, we were further treated to a bowl of albondigas, which were charmingly referred to as 'meet balls' on the menu. The Gutierrez Colosia Oloroso failed to reach the heights of its predecessor, but the Oloroso and fig mousse complete with Uri Geller-like bendy spoons kept us amused.

I'm both delighted and excited to see London embracing Andalucía's Sherry culture and becoming the Sherry capital of the world outside Jerez. If any city has the power to give the most unhip of drinks categories a makeover then London has. It's at the centre of the vortex. So many of my friends in the wine trade adore Sherry with a fervor rarely bestowed upon other wine styles. It's our hidden gem, but it seems that the secret is now well and truly out of Granny's cupboard.


  1. I ate there and threw up afterwards the food was so sh*t

  2. ok,so I met a great Sommelier that works in Maze, and he recommended "Gutierrez COlosia" as a high quality sherry.Sooooo, Marketing doesnt mean quality.