31 January 2010

Barrica on Goodge Street


Croquetas con jamon & pollo
 Cal Pep is one of the most famous tapas restaurants in Barcelona.  The basque stalwart inspired Sam and Eddie Hart's outstanding Barrafina.  Barrafina for me, serves some of the best tapas outside of Spain but just like Cal Pep, Barrafina is always packed.  It doesn't take reservations, so no matter what day of the week it is and unless you go when it opens, you almost certainly have to queue just to bag a spot.  So I was really excited to read about the opening of Barrica, an authentic Spanish tapas bar that wouldn't look out of place on the streets of Barcelona that takes bookings.

Jamon Iberico cebo

When I call up Barrica and make a booking , the person who answers the phone is manager, David Garcia, who hails from Madrid.  Good sign.   An even better sign is that most of the staff  - on floor and kitchen are almost exclusively Spanish. So, as I make my way to the restaurant I'm full of hope and excitement about being greeted with a bustling restaurant strait from the pebbled streets of Catalan capital.  Sadly, unlike our Spanish counterparts, Brits don't seem to take lunch breaks and midweek Barrica is empty.  And despite it quickly filling up with office workers and students from the surrounding area, it doesn't quite feel like I've been transported to Barcelona.

Pimento de Padron

The restaurant is split into two areas.  In keeping with the ethos of tapas dining, the front is occupied by bar stools and tables for casual walk-ins, where you can enjoy a glass of wine from Barrica's extensive wine list while enjoying a light snack,  including olives, almonds, cheeses, home-pickled vegetables and cured meats. At the back of the restaurant, is a seated area where you can dawdle, chat and eat in peace.

Calamar a la de Parilla

Barrica is located in what some critics are billing as the Tapas triangle on Goodge Street.  The acclaimed Fino and Salt Yard are both in close proximity, as such the restaurant has a lot to prove by infringing on this established patch of Noho.  However, with its very competitive pricing, Barrica has set itself as a worthy challenger. Dishes start at £1.25, and you could easily eat for under £15 per head excluding wine.

Gambas a la sal

The Spanish really know how to do cured meats, and at Barrica they serve some of the country's finest.  The jamon iberico cebo from Revisan, is imported exclusively by Barrica from Guijuelo in Salamanca. The plate of finely sliced ham, was a steal at £6.75.  The pigs are fed exclusively on a diet of cereals and acorns and aged for at least three years, giving the jamon a very distinctive acorn taste.  Disappointingly, the jamon was little dry, but despite this the flavours were there but just not as intense, nevertheless, it was pleasure to eat the shavings or gourmet ham on it's own or with a bit of bread.

Reassuringly, the menu is dotted with the other Spanish classics including some of my favourites.   The croquetas de jamon & pollo were tasty and cooked perfectly - light and fluffy.  The pimentos de padrĂ³n – deep-fried and salted peppers were incredibly moorish - I could have eaten the whole plate.   While the calamar a la parrilla - squid was  almost fautless.  Slices of soft and tender squid were cooked and simply seasoned with a drizzle of olive oil and fried garlic flakes.  The albondigas de cerdo y rabo de toro  - pork & oxtail meat balls was my least favourite of the many dishes we tried.  However, despite being full of flavour, I found the large balls of meat heavy and incredibly fatty.

Barrica’s kitchen is run by ex-Moro chef, James Knight, and as such the menu includes other dishes that push the boundaries of familiarity.    The remolacha y almendras ‐ beetroot salad with almond dressing was a fantastically light, palate cleansing addition to the table.  A dish I didn't try, but will be back to eat is the torta de tuetano con perejil y Pedro Ximenez ‐ bone marrow with parsley & PX Sherry on toast.

Verdict:  So it's not quite like eating in Barcelona, but Barrica serves good food at reasonable prices.  I  really admire its ambitions to import casual tapas sensibilities to London.  I'll definitely be back.

Barrica on Urbanspoon



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