Sunday 18 January 2009

El Rincon, Clapham Manor Street, Clapham, south London

A boisterous and high-tempo tapas bar just off Clapham's main drag, El Rincon is a favourite with the hedonistic twenty and thirtysomethings that infest this area of London. Choosing from the extensive list of tapas (about a fiver a dish) is something of a lottery. The mussels can be bland and the chicken risotto anemic, while the lackluster green salad is a waste of £3.20. Better is the tasty chorizo, even though it can be a little overcooked, and the patatas bravas, doused in a spicy tomato sauce with a surprising kick. One of the best dishes is five large, juicy and fresh garlic king prawns with a side salad. As a rule, the tapas portions are generous, but the food needs more seasoning. The house red (about £12 a bottle), Oton Rioja, is surprisingly smooth and subtle. But perhaps the best thing about El Rincon is the service - despite working at a frenetic pace, the lively Latin staff are patient, genial and genuinely welcoming. For a weekend table, book in advance. Otherwise you might get a stool at the bar, plenty of buzz and something of a buffering from your fellow diners. 7/10