Two weeks ago as I sat in a packed out tapas bar in the heart of Covent Garden, I realised it had taken me until then to fall in love with the Spanish cuisine. This is a bold statement I know! I’ve taken several trips to Spain and have loved both Barcelona and Seville especially. That said with the exception of La Flauta in Barcelona I’ve not experienced Spanish food that I felt wholly passionate about until now. Perhaps it was the combination of setting, service and the menu that tipped things for me but Barrafina ticked a lot of boxes. I’ve got a handful of friends that have raved about the original Frith Street Barrafina for years so I realise I’m definitely not first to the table with this one and I’m definitely cross for not making it there sooner.
On visiting their latest addition at Drury Lane, their third restaurant in central London, we were pleasantly greeted and briskly put in line while we waited for our spot at the bar (you can’t reserve a spot for any groups under 6). In true tapas bar style all seats are set at the bar so you have the perfect vantage point to see the chefs in action. While waiting, we stood with Vermouth (Casa Mariol, Vermut Negre to be precise) in hand and a selection of four of their best ‘Para Picar’, which were recommended. I always think you can tell instantly when you can trust your host or waiter and this was one of those times. I’m that annoying person that always wants to know what the staff would order fearful of getting it wrong and having a severe case of food envy. When you know you’re going to be sat pretty close (almost reaching distance) to the person next to you it’s essential all food orders are spot on.
For the Para Picar, we were recommended the Pan con Tomate, a dish which couldn’t be simpler but definitely shouldn’t be missed, which for me, sums up the ethos behind Barrafina: simple dishes with fantastic ingredients tasting the best they possibly can. The Piquillo Croquetas should also be on your to do list. The mushroom version is a great veggie option if dining out with a vegetarian (as I do!) Again taking complete lead from our host, we sipped Hart Bros sherry and although not a committed sherry drinker this was so much lighter and fresher than anything I’d previously choked down at my grandparents. It proved a welcome addition alongside our ‘picky bits’.
On taking our seat at the bar we soon realise we want to eat everything that’s being served up right in front of our eyes. Even The Vegetarian seemed overly curious about some of the meat and fish concoctions, especially the Cuttlefish Empanada and Pork Belly Mojo Verde both of which I can vouch for being completely delicious. Had I have not greedily wanted to try as much as possible on the menu I would have definitely considered reordering both.
The real star of the show and one that both The Vegetarian and I could enjoy together was the Classic Tortilla currently sat at the number 10 spot of Time Out’s Top 100 dishes in London. This is a tortilla like no other I can assure you. I wish I had paid closer attention to the making of this as on slicing into the tortilla it immediately oozes a onion soup like mixture. It is hands down the most tasty tortilla I’ve ever had.
For any vegetarian looking to enjoy the simple things in life head straight here and order a double portion. The only thing I regretted was having to share this and taking the smaller portion as I had so many other meaty (and non shareable dishes) already ordered. Another winning dish and tribute to great produce and flavour was the Baby Gem, Botarga, Walnuts, Pancetta and Manchego salad. The chef will happily serve up with the Pancetta and Botargo on the side to please that vegetarian in your life. The stuffed courgette flower was as spot on as we’d hoped (again I had to just settle for a taster so The Vegetarian could eat and not come away hungry.)
In short, this restaurant has the most amazing atmosphere and buzz about it. I can only imagine that this comes down to the excitement and contentment of the diners eating here. My favourite spot in any restaurant is one sat overlooking where the cooking’s going on. I love being able to ask chef’s questions on the food while they cook plus seeing the dishes fly out of the kitchen always serves as a true inspiration to squeeze in that one extra dish when you thought you were full. In a very short space of time Barrafina has become a favourite on the London food scene, you only have to visit once to realise why. I’ve already planned my return so if you’ve not eaten here yet, get in line and be sure to arrive early.
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43 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5AJ