It’s perhaps not widely know outside the area that head chef Nacho de Campo cooks up a storm in this hidden Spanish joint just behind grubby old Pentonville Road.
Over the years we’ve popped in for everything from a good-value set lunch to full-on dinner, or simply plates of pan con tomate to soak up beers on the capacious terrace, all red-painted barrels and olive trees. (If you’ve not been to Varnisher’s Yard before, do also check out the sherry bar opposite, Pepito, an atmospheric cubby hole that makes you feel like you’ve just stepped off EasyJet.)
On our chilly midweek evening visit, the open kitchen and glass roof ensured a Mediterranean feel, the temperature inside swelteringly hot.
As is the menu, in fact: having upped its game over the years, we reckon these deceptively simple Basque plates are as impressive as some of those at the finest Soho tapas joints.
5. Baby Aubergine (£5.25)Stuffed with peppers, onion and fragrant coriander, this distinctively meaty vegetarian dish comes with a zesty salsa verde.
4. Cod Brandada (£6.75)This creamy, salty emulsion of white fish and olive oil is encased in a wood-fired pepper – but the surprise is the saffron cream sauce. You’ll want to lick the plate clean: thankfully, bread is on hand.
3. Octopus (£9.75)Thick blackened slices of tentacle zig-zag an earthy chickpea and beetroot puree on this attractive plate, seasoned with sea salt and dusted by the sweet heat of paprika.
2. Presa Iberico (£9.75)This is pork shoulder from ‘posh’ pigs that grow up on a diet of acorns. It’s especially delicious as it comes blushingly rare – as much so as fillet steak – and is as tender as any meat can possibly be. Here it’s served on a sticky sweet potato mash.
1. Blue Fin Tuna (£13.75)Sustainably sourced in Catalunya, it’s served achingly rare, with sticky-crispy chargrilled edges, and a truly melt-in-the-mouth centre. An accompanying seaweed ‘tartare’ is paired with tomatoes, cucumber and onion.