SE1, March 2000......no Tate Modern yet, Globe Theatre only just up and running, no new development, no regeneration, Borough Market just a pale shadow of its current vibrant self, gangs of feral hoodies (o.k., not really), the whole Southwark/ Bankside area a very different, and much less appealing place than today. So why on earth did we choose "one of the most obscure, derelict streets in London" (thanks, Matthew Fort!) to open what we hoped would be a good take on an authentic tapas bar? Well, we liked the pub - over a hundred years of trading as "The Hop Pole" and a really convivial, laid-back feel that a well-worn old building just has, and we liked what we figured might happen in the area. Almost 12 years later, the hunches seem to have paid off.

We have the most amazing, loyal clientele, some of whom have been coming since week one, and can honestly say we've never hankered after the throngs of passing trade on the High Street. We're not for everyone, but if you like simple, authentic Spanish food (we ship our olives, olive oil, charcuterie, nuts, piquillo peppers and baby broad beans, as well as other products ourselves direct from artisan producers in Spain, not to mention the best espresso beans from Puglia!), an idiosyncratic but well-annotated wine list - all Spanish, of course - and an atmosphere which, if I was just a little cheesier I would call "simpatico" - we'll settle for congenial - you might want to come along.

We have space for forty in the ground floor/bar area, a walled garden seating another forty, which is delightful in the warmer months, and an upper room of similar capacity which we often use for private parties.