The lunch options aren’t awful near my office, but they are severely limited. The Jubilee Place Mall complex at Canary Wharf is just chain after chain after chain. Pret can spice up my life only so much with the “sandwich of the week,” and even if I could stomach the “Super Salmon 3 Ways” sushi box at Itsu five days a week, my wallet would cry for mercy at spending £50 a week on ho-hum lunches.
What this means is that after almost two years of eating at the same big-chain places, I now try to bring my lunch to work. And when I do eat out, I try to make it a proper sit-down meal at a (non-chain) restaurant.
Exhibit A: Today, my friend Srishti and I had lunch at El Faro, a Spanish restaurant far (i.e., a 15-minute walk) from the homogenized world of Canary Wharf. The restaurant is perched on one of the many waterways that snake through the Docklands, tucked away in the Harbour Exchange office complex. There are outdoor seats right next to the water, and the two-story interior is airy and large.
The service was attentive (key when you want to get in and out during a lunch break), and the tapas was, overall, very good. The patatas bravas at El Faro are perfection itself. I hate to keep raving about the humble potato, but I can’t help being a sucker for crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-sweet-on-the-inside potato dishes. The patatas bravas here are served with a creamy and strong garlic aoli, and the serving size is big enough to share four ways.
Tortilla espanol (photo at top of post), pimientos del padron (photo above), and fried calamari rounded out my favorite tapas for being good examples of simply-prepared food made with quality ingredients.
Gambas al ajillo (shrimp in butter and garlic) were overcooked, which is a super disappointing waste of good, sweet shrimp. The coca con anchoas (anchovies and grilled vegetables on flatbread) was highly recommended by our server, but for £7.50 it was a total waste. The saltiness of the anchovies overwhelmed the grilled vegetables, and the flat bread was a thin cracker that turned soggy because everything was swimming in olive oil.
The bottom line is that El Faro is a nice place to sit on the rare sunny day, and if you stick with simple dishes, you should be all set on the food front. If you’re only two people, I’d order four tapas plates, at most. Srishti and I were dumb to order seven, which meant our tab unnecessarily hit £45. Most of the tapas dishes cost between £4 and £7.