Historical version 5 of El Faro, E14 9RD (view current version)

Note: El Faro will be closing for Christmas after Saturday 22 December 2007; it reopens on Wednesday 16 January 2008.

Good Spanish/tapas restaurant on the Isle of Dogs. The interweb suggests that they do good steak. You can do the full starter-main-dessert thing, or just have tapas. They offer 24-hour roasted suckling pig, flown in from Spain.

The interior is modern and smart without being fussy. The two-person tables are fairly small, necessitating a fair bit of shuffling if you're having tapas. The main dining area is on the ground floor (toilets are upstairs), but there's another room upstairs which I think you can book, and an outside terrace looking on to the river (although Millwall Dock is perhaps not the most attractive stretch of the Thames).

Kake and doop visited on a Wednesday night around 8:15pm. We hadn't booked, but there was no problem finding us a table for two. They offered us a choice between an immediate table right in the middle of the restaurant, or a "just being cleared" table by the window; we chose the latter, and the wait was indeed very short.

We went for the tapas option, choosing five starters, a salad, and a basket of bread between two of us. With a cheese plate to finish, this was the right amount. The marinaded tuna was a fairly small portion (considering the price) of thin slivers of raw tuna; nice, though perhaps too heavy a hand with the salt crystals. The peppers padrones, on the other hand, though tasty, could maybe have done with a bit more salt (not a problem; our bread basket came with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a mound of salt crystals, so we just applied some of these). The ham has been raved about, but Kake was not as amazed by it as she'd expected; it was OK, but not what I was hoping for. The tomato-rubbed toast that accompanied it, on the other hand, was very good. We also had the croquettes (perfectly fine) and the octopus (good; the potatoes the octopus was served on top of were the perfect contrast to the chewy octopus, and the buttery oil that the dish was drenched in was quite gorgeous).

Kake took Bob along on her second visit a few months later, on a Thursday evening in December 2007. Again, we hadn't booked, but we were seated immediately. We chose the tapas option again; six dishes the first time around and then a further three a bit later on as we were both pretty hungry. The menu had changed slightly from our earlier visit. The marinaded tuna had been replaced by tuna tartare (£7), a rather more satisfying portion this time; it was served rather cold but was much better after it warmed up a bit. We had the octopus (£5) again, and it was still good, though the potato pieces were noticeably smaller and cooked to the point of disintegration; I think I preferred the previous version. The croquettes (£3.45) had acquired some mushrooms in their filling, which worked very well. Really, it was all good, apart from the pork confit cubes with honey and rosemary (£7); awfully, awfully dry, which is not what you'd expect from confit.

Service was friendly and helpful on our first visit, and similar on our second, though a little more harried (possibly due being kept very busy by the large party upstairs). They seem to have a very strict division between people who're allowed to take your drink order and people who're allowed to take your food order; on our first visit we got to order drinks very quickly but were kept waiting for quite a while before we could order any food, and the first staff member to approach us on our second visit seemed very surprised to be asked a question about the food menu.

Getting here: Unless you fancy the (not unpleasant) 15-20 minute walk from Canary Wharf Tube Station, you'll have to use the DLR to get here, but really, that's no great hardship, and the restaurant is literally seconds from Crossharbour Station.

See also:

Last visited by Kake and Bob, 13 December 2007. Prices and opening hours taken from the El Faro website, December 2007.
OS X co-ord: 537804 OS Y co-ord: 179327 (Latitude: 51.496095 Longitude: -0.016246)
This is version 5 (as of 2007-12-15 14:07:08). View current version. List all versions.