San Miguel’s is a strange little tapas bar. The location is odd – it’s on a side street just off of Edgware Road. From the outside you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a strip club, or a biker bar, or possibly both. The neon sign hanging over the steps leading down to the basement probably doesn’t help.
Stepping inside is like stepping back in time to the 70′s. There’s no natural light, the plants are made of plastic, and the furniture looks like it was bought from a charity shop.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s fantastic.
It gets better, too. A perfectly drinkable bottle of house wine costs £12.95 per bottle; they’re on Taste Card at 50% off food; and most importantly, the food is good.
It’s tapas – affordable, simple and tasty. As long as you don’t go in expecting something else then you’ll love it.
For the first round of food we went for chorizo in red wine, meatballs in tomato sauce, and mushrooms in garlic and oil.
The chorizo was tasty because, well, chorizo is pretty much always tasty. It was perhaps slightly over-cooked but I wasn’t complaining. As an added bonus you get lots of delicious red wine and chorizo oil left in the bottom of the ceramic bowl to soak the complimentary bread in.
The meatballs were delicious. Juicy, meaty, ball-shaped – that pretty much covers it. Who doesn’t like meatballs?
The mushrooms were also very nice with thick slices of fried garlic mixed amongst them. We liked these three dishes so much that we ordered them both times that we’ve been here.
Round two: patatas bravas, prawns braised in garlic oil and wine, fried aubergines, and pork kebabs.
The patatas bravas, while not the best I’ve ever had, were perfectly decent. Plus you have to order patatas bravas when you have tapas (at least you do when I’m there).
The prawns were fantastic. I don’t normally go for prawns – I have issues with the exoskeletons – but these were nicely de-shelled. They were super-garlicky, which is always a good thing, and absolutely delicious.
The fried aubergines were a bit limp. They were still pretty tasty, although I’m not sure that I’d order them again any time soon, simply because there’s a lot of other stuff I want to try first.
I don’t know if fried pork, peppers and onions served in a bowl is technically a kebab, but I’m not sure that I care. It tasted good, and like most dishes on the menu it only cost about £3 with the Taste Card discount.
After just two rounds I was completely off my mash on tapas and wine and it only came to a shade over £40. That included plenty of food for two people, a bottle of wine, and even service. The first time that we went we were feeling particularly gluttonous and had 10 plates to share, yet the bill only came to just over £50. Pretty good value.
One final piece of advice: be sure to tip the keyboard player on your way out. He must be in his 60′s and does a fantastic job of singing and playing the keyboard along to cheesy built-in backing tracks. My favourite this time was his unique rendition of “Hung Up” by Madonna.
It’s the little quirks like this that make San Miguel’s such a fun and memorable dining experience, at least for me. They’re not being ironic – the plants are genuinely made of plastic, and the guy on the keyboard actually means it when he sings Madonna in a Spanish accent.
Never change, San Miguel’s. Never change.