10 minutes with: Omar Allibhoy, Tapas Revolution

The  Staff Canteen

Born in Madrid and trained by Ferran Adria at El Bulli, Omar Allibhoy has four Tapas Revolution restaurants to his name at the age of 29. Here we chat to Omar about his love for tapas food and his plans to grow his restaurant group even more.

Tapas Revolution open kitchen

It’s no wonder Omar has been so successful at such a young age, considering he first realised his passion for cooking when he was just three years old, watching his mother cook.

He said: “Ever since then I wanted to help her out, whisking eggs and doing really simple things, and I’ve never changed my mind. I’ve been cooking ever since and I’ve never been as passionate about anything else.”

A natural entrepreneur, at eight years old Omar started selling cakes in the back garden of his parent’s garden.

He later enrolled in evening cookery classes while still in school, and his career really took off when he trained at El Bulli.

On his early career Omar said: “It really drove me forward and taught me a lot about how to do things well.”

Omar made the decision to move to London in 2005. He explained: “I wanted to learn English, which was my main goal, so that I could then travel around the world. But when I came to London I fell in love, and the rest is history.Fried sweet green peppers

"London is a very exciting city, it’s very developed, I find it incredibly competitive and that is the type of environment I excel at. I want to be a part of it, this bunch of people who do exciting things that are then replicated around the world. It’s a challenging city.”

After he fell in love with London, Omar worked at restaurants including Maze before becoming executive chef of El Pirata Detapas, where he and the team almost made it to the semi-final of Ramsay’s Best Restaurant after being contacted by the show.

Omar said: “We believed we were good and we wanted people to see it. It was entertaining, doing something different for a few days, I’m the type of person who likes to have variety in what I do.”

In 2010, Omar decided it was time to branch out on his own and opened his first Tapas Revolution in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, Kent.

He explained: “I wanted to do something informal, affordable and good quality, like tapas bars in Spain. Lots of people here were doing Spanish restaurants, but in Spain what is really authentic and traditional is the tapas bars. I wanted to focus on the cultural side of things, how we enjoy everything.”

The restaurant has been a big success and from this Omar decided to open more Tapas Revolutions, choosing Bluewater, Kent and Shoreditch for the next two ventures. omar quote

He said: “I wanted to bring great Spanish food into the environment that it was best to do so in, which I believed was tapas bars. I feel there is demand for Spanish tapas bars across the country, and there are actually very few.”

Omar and the team have just opened their fourth and fifth restaurant, this time deciding Birmingham and Sheffield were the ideal sites for the next Tapas Revolution.

He said: “Birmingham ticked a lot of the boxes, the location was great, it has a high footfall. It’s doing really well thankfully. The people of Birmingham really appreciate fresh food, and we cook absolutely everything from scratch using good artisan products. People really like it and have welcomed us to the community.”

He added: "Tapas Revolution in Meadowhall is my version of the tapas bars back home in Spain, that act as a social hub for the community as well as providing delicious traditional food. Sheffield has a great food scene that’s growing and is gaining a really positive reputation. I wanted to get involved in the buzz happening there and bring a real taste of Spain to the North of England."

While all the restaurants share the same name, they are by no means duplicates of the same restaurant. They all look different, with different textures, materials and colours. Even the menus are different for each restaurant.Gambas al ajillo

Omar said: “The menus are fun, the locations have character so they need different things. For example in Birmingham we are just about to start doing breakfast and we have a take away menu too which I think is going to be a huge success.”

With every new restaurant Omar opens, his passion for tapas and what it represents to him only grows.

He explained: “It’s the food that I know best, there is an element with tapas that it’s not just small plates with Spanish food, it’s the way people eat it, how we go out and entertain ourselves. The same way that here in the UK you meet for a pint, in Spain we meet for tapas.”

Omar plans to keep growing Tapas Revolution, with two new restaurants already planned. The team are currently designing a restaurant in Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre, opening March 16. Then the next restaurant,

Omar hopes, will be in Newcastle. Omar said: “I fell in love with Newcastle, I felt we had to be there and be part of all that exciting food scene as well. Everyone was so London focused before, and now it seems to be spreading.

“We are slowly continuing to grow Tapas Revolution, as long as you keep going to Spain on holiday and you want a bit of it when you come back home, then we’ll keep pushing!”  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th March 2016

10 minutes with: Omar Allibhoy, Tapas Revolution