Restaurant Review: Bar Esteban, Crouch End, N8

Lisa Woolley raises a glass at Bar Esteban Pic: Erica Angeli

Lisa Woolley raises a glass at Bar Esteban Pic: Erica Angeli - Credit: Archant

It must take something of a leap of faith to give up a high-flying job in New York City, sell up and follow your dream of opening a neighbourhood restaurant in the London suburbs.

The artichokes and ham were delicious Pic: Erica Angeli

The artichokes and ham were delicious Pic: Erica Angeli - Credit: Archant

But that’s just what Lisa Woolley has done with Bar Esteban in Crouch End, alongside business partner Stephen Liron and, by gum, it’s paid off.

Despite avoiding press launches, publicity and the like, the place has already built a loyal following amongst Crouch Enders and was packed to the rafters on our Wednesday night visit, when even established stalwarts like Banners, a couple of doors down, had tables empty.

The décor shows the proprietor’s New Yorker roots; and the stripped back, congenial space would not be out of place in Brooklyn or the lower east side.

Food-wise, head chef Pablo Rodriguez-Lopez, formerly of Moro, has created a staple selection of tapas complimented by ever-changing specials according to whatever produce has come in fresh that day.

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And from that chalk-board of delights we sampled the montadito de secreto iberico – succulent salted pork on a bed of sweet quince and bread that fair tickled the taste buds, as did the devilishly moreish grilled padron peppers.

The salt cod croquetas were light in texture but powerful in flavour, while the grilled, crispy artichokes with cured ham proved a delicate and delicious distraction and the black pudding topped with quails egg was as decadent as it sounds. Pausing only for a small dry sherry, we moved onto the seafood; ­impossible garlicky prawns and a hearty helping of octopus, piled high on potatoes and seasoned with paprika.

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And finally, the pig cheeks special was thrillingly tender and moistened lovingly in a deep, rich jus.

The only let down was the desserts – both the creme Catalana and tarte de Santiago were a bit moribund –but every bite of tapas really was first class; thoughtful, fun and authentic.

And in the fierce restaurant market of boutique Crouch End, Lisa Woolley and her business partner have put enough time, ­research and effort in to ­ensure they’ve backed a winner.

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