16 October 2010

Barrafina - tapas heaven in Soho

There are so many things that make Barrafina, one of mine and the AB's all-time favourite dining experiences in London.

Stepping into the tiny tapas bar your senses feel like their immediately transported to Barcelona.  Indeed it is well known that when opening Barrafina, Sam and Eddie Hart, the owners were inspired by the famed Cal Pep in Barcelona.


The restaurant operates a no-bookings policy.  There are only 23 or so stools that surround the bar which make up the restaurant, so if you want to dine there for lunch arrive at noon and before 6pm for dinner.  Otherwise you could spend anything from up to a hour or more queuing.

We arrived there just after 6.00pm and the restaurant was completely full and buzzing.  Luckily, we were first in line to be seated.  So while we waited for a spot by the bar, we ordered a bottle of the NV Torre de Gall Cava Brut Reserva Rose, a bargain bottle at £24.00.  


The sparkling wine was crisp and refreshing , and the perfect accompaniment to the chorizo and potato chips; a moreish plate of thinly cut slices of potatoes wrapped around spicy chorizo sausages, we'd ordered to tie us over.  After about 20 minutes we are finally seated.

One of the best things about eating at Barrafina is the open kitchen.  Sitting at the counter you feel as if you're sitting in the audience of a theatre performance. There's literally nothing but the bar separating you from the chefs at work behind the counter.    


This is tapas, so the dishes are all designed to be shared.   First dish to arrive was the ham croquetas (£3.50) - two light and fluffy bread coated balls of creamy, potato and ham.  A fave of mine and the AB's, I could have easily eaten four and I do think I may have on a previous visit.


A steaming plate of gambas al ajillo (£7.70) is a winner.  The prawns were large, fresh, succulent  and garlicky.  The prawns are cooked in their shells, which may put you off but take it from me they're worth the effort involved in peeling them so they are edible.

The mackerel (£12.00), a special was cooked to perfection and served with slivers of jamon iberico, new potatoes and capers.


Next the morchilla iberica, quail eggs (£6.20) - Spanish black pudding topped with quail eggs is excellent,  However, the piece de resistance is the classic tortilla.


Hands down this is my favourite dish at Barrafina and the one without fail I always order.   It's extraordinary how a simple dish of egg and potatoes can taste so good.  It's cooked so it's firm and fluffy on the outside, but still soft and gooey in the middle.  It send shivers down my spine just thinking about the yoke oozing out of the tortilla as I cut myself a slice.  I would go as far to say it's like heaven on a plate.

Verdict:  Barrafina is not cheap, but what you pay for is well worth the price of being in the audience of a high-octane kitchen where fresh and good quality ingredients are the stars of the show.

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