It was one of those desolate nights when Soho can feel like a wasteland. ‘Where is everyone?’. I run through my mental checklist; it isn’t a bank holiday, nor is there a train strike (for once) and to the best of my knowledge, the global apocalypse hasn’t been declared (yet).
Turns out, it’s just a quiet winter Wednesday and whilst some are hunkering down at home, as I turn onto Berwick Street, I realise that those who aren’t are dining in Maresco.
Following the success of Crouch End’s Bar Esteban and Stoke Newington’s Escocesa, Maresco is the third London restaurant from Scottish music producer Stephen Lironi. The cleverly named Maresco, which is a portmanteau of Spanish words; mar, meaning sea, and esco as in Scotland, promises to deliver authentic Spanish tapas made with seafood fresh from the Scottish shores.
The interior is a cosmopolitan take on a traditional tapas bar without any unnecessary modern clichés. There are no upturned barrels masquerading as tables, in fact, the upstairs doesn’t have any tables at all. I don’t mind, I love the intimacy of a counter: they’re perfect for food sharers, whisperers and eavesdroppers. It’s relaxed but stylish (unpretentiously so) with blue neon signs and tropical plants. It’s certainly Instagrammable, but not too Instagrammable.
We start with two glasses of Txakolina, a naturally effervescent Basque white, similar to a Portuguese vinho verde – it’s light, fresh and the perfect accompaniment to fried fish. Bring on the Chiperones!
We begin with the pan con tomate. The bread is well seasoned with proper crust. The tomatoes arrived fridge cold but once warmed up were delicious. Next up, the ceviche; robustly sliced sea bass adorned with slivers of radish, grape, red onion and garnished with grated lime and micro coriander.
The smoky chargrilled leeks with Romesco sauce were surprisingly tasty. The Chiperones were crisp, lightly battered and tasted like a beach holiday. I should mention that a seat at the counter next to the seafood section is not for the faint-hearted. The Scottish langoustines were perfectly fresh, I know, because I saw them meet their wriggly demise moments earlier on a chopping board inches from my plate (dinner with a side of drama anyone?).
But the real heroes of the savoury section were the Croquetas Menorquinas, served in little pools of sauce beneath grated manchego. My date and I remarked that they were the best we’ve had this side of San Sebastián.
We almost didn’t have the stamina for dessert but we rallied, and I’m glad we did because the Basque cheesecake was smooth, rich and had an unusual, but welcome, tang of blue cheese.
People who work in fun jobs in Soho: they come from work but you’d never know it because they are wearing jeans and New Balance trainers. There are people there wearing scrunchies – the modern way. The chat is lively and if you listen closely (from the counter) you can hear them all bitching about their coworkers.
In a Nutshell
There are some great dishes. Maresco is a lot of fun and, given that it makes you feel like you’re in Spain for a couple of hours on a cold winter evening, its great value.
Maresco, 45 Berwick Street, London, W1F 8SF