Restaurant review: El Cantara might work as plan B if you can't score a table at Koya, Barrafina or Polpo.
El Cantara is a Moroccan paradise with a hint of Spanish influence. There are two good reasons to head for El Cantara. One: the secret roof terrace where you can eat, drink or puff on a shisha.
It’s at the top of a sprawling, elaborately decorated townhouse that seems to go on forever, from basement bar to roof under the stars. Recently reinvented after a fire, this curious hybrid appears to have evaded the consciousness of Soho’s regulars.
Perhaps it’s because of the sticky, laminated menus that can’t decide if they’re Moroccan or Spanish – tagine or paella? Couscous or patatas bravas? But cooking from Noureddine Khouyi, a former chef at Marrakesh’s La Mamounia Hotel, is better than the tourist trappings would suggest.
Especially reason two: a gorgeous chicken pastilla, a Moroccan pie that features layers of crisp, oily filo, spiced chicken and a lot of icing sugar.
Other dishes – albóndigas (meatballs), calamari, fishcakes with garlic mayo – are serviceable. Sadly, promised belly dancers fail to appear.
If you can’t score a table at Koya, Barrafina or Polpo, this might work as plan B, especially if the sun ever shines again.
Meal for two with wine, water and service, about £60. 45 Frith Street. Tel: 020 7734 6868. Tube: Leicester Square