“Ok, so I’ll arrive at 12.30pm and sit on my own for 15 minutes.” This was my response when trying to reserve a table for 12.45pm as unhelpfully, both the online and telephone systems only allowed bookings at half past or on the hour.
Arriving at Fino, I was told my guest hadn’t arrived. I recounted my experience which apparently is down to a third-party booking service. The receptionist suggested I press option 2 in future as it would bypass the service and allow me to book a table at anytime.
I decided to indulge in a sherry whilst waiting. On telling the sommelier I didn’t normally drink sherry, she suggested tasting two before making a recommendation: one was a pale dry Manzanilla and the other a richer in colour and flavour, Oloroso. Preferring the first, a glass of La gitana hidalgo was recommended.
Sitting there, sipping my sherry and feeling very grown up, gave me the opportunity to look at the menu and around the rather classy, basement restaurant. Whilst the food is reasonably priced the wine is slightly more expensive with wines ranging from £26 to £300+. Having being advised years ago to always go for the second cheapest, I chose a Viñedos centenarios at £28.
Having heard advice given to a neighbouring table, we chose two tapas each: manchego cheese and membrillo which I correctly guessed was a quince cheese; gambetas; classic tortilla and fuet Catalán (a dry cured sausage) – c0-incidentally all £6.80. However, at the last minute we couldn’t resist adding a side of Fino chips and brava sauce (£4.70).
The five thin cheese triangles, served on a rectangular slate with two dainty fingers of mebrillo, were swiftly followed by the sausage slices on a wooden board along with a Jenga-style stack of cornichons. They were lovely but needed bread which interestingly was shown on the bill as ‘extra bread’. Still two huge thick, warm slabs of light-brown bread went down very well. The gambetas were served in their shells with a large wedge of lemon but my guest remarked, “it’s a lot of effort for such a small prawn”. They were also very messy and it wasn’t until we’d completely ruined our napkins, that finger-bowls were delivered. The tortilla was the star attraction and best value for money: a deep, saucer-sized omelette, with a lovely runny middle. The chips, whilst hot, crisp and salty, were after all chips.
Fino is a smart restaurant, full of business suits, and where I’d suggest a booking is essential – just remember to press 2. Although the address is 33 Charlotte Street the entrance is on Rathbone Street, and it’s quite difficult to find so leave plenty of time.
Fino, 33 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1RR