La Farola is a neighbourhood tapas restaurant with an enviable location on the corner of Therberton and Upper Street and two resident turtles named Lola and Alejandro. It’s the perfect people watching spot – whether you stop for breakfast and watch the world go by, or dinner and stare out on the bright lights and buzz of Islington at night. It’s also one of Upper Street’s most popular first date venues, where you’re likely to see loved-up locals sharing tapas and cocktails, feeding each other and soaking up the romantic ambience. I popped in with a plus one to find out if there were any success stories… and to taste some tapas!
La Farola means street lights in Spanish and the name is really brought to life by the décor. Vintage tea cup lights hang from the ceiling and the floor to ceiling windows ensure the place is flooded with light. The feel is simple but rustic, with exposed brick and white washed floorboards. There’s a big beer barrel at the front of the restaurant which homes two resident turtles, and as I walk in Alper, the manager, immediately makes a joke about how I’d like them cooked. He recommends them extra crispy with a side of fries and for some reason I feel like he’s told that joke before…
There’s a big communal table in the middle - perfect if you’re in a big group - but also some more romantic two-seat options. By day, La Farola is a welcoming bistro, serving up a mean breakfast as well as their infamous tapas dishes, by night the place transforms into a romantic restaurant with traditional Spanish music playing from the speakers. The staff are wonderfully attentive and friendly and there’s a big cocktail list as well as a thoughtful wine list with lots of Spanish options. In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to Rioja, and quite rightly so.
The food here is very highly acclaimed so we decided to try as much as possible. They only use the best quality, organic and authentic ingredients and update their menu every three to four months depending on what their customers tell them they love and don’t love as much. The current menu offers typical Spanish tapas with Italian, French and modern touches. Everything we ordered came out quickly and beautifully presented.
The star of the meal, quite surprisingly, was the courgette flowers. Wonderfully crisp tempura stuffed with a deliciously creamy goat cheese and drizzled with thick honey, it honestly was one of the best things we’d eaten in a long time. We also loved the serrano ham croquets, which came with a thick bravas sauce, the fried baby squid and the chorizo, which was presented in a delicious onion, choi sum and thyme sauce.
If we’d have had time we would have stuck around for the churros - apparently they’re legendary and come complete with a rich chocolate orange like sauce. All the more reason to come back again very soon, and this time we’ll make sure we book - the place is very popular!
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