So Good I went back again after a week. Its hard to put your finger on why this restaurant works so well. Its bustling atmosphere in the heart of Soho just sort of feels right. The restaurant is a single L shaped bar with 25 seats. And from recent experience always busy. There is a no booking policy and I guess that is why I took so long in getting round to going. The fact I’ve now been twice in 2 weeks is perhaps testimony to how good the first trip was in spite of the 2 hour queue! (more of which below). There is something about the room’s atmosphere, the theatre of watching those chefs at work that is just very attractive. In many ways it reminds me a lot of the bar at Bocco Di lupo. And even if you are someone who prefers a more orthodox table and chairs set up ,I think you’d struggle not to be charmed by this place. It feels genuine, there is the energy of Soho just outside, and were it not for the bleak April weather you feel like you could be in the heart of Spain.
Gambas and Razor Clams
Sweet fresh garlic deliciousness do I really need to say more than that? – The kind of thing you hope for in so many tapas bars or seafood joints but so rarely get. I mean look at em I could eat them all over again right now!
Chipirones / Octopus and Capers
Yes little tiny squid, tarted up calamari if you will, but deliciousness all the same crisp light without even a rumour of the soggy or chewy- so much so, most of them had gone before I even got this picture off. The octopus meaty tender and set off nicely by those capers and smoked paprika – to the delight of those queuing behind these two dishes were dispatched in about 2 minutes flat.
I’d say this is the least traditional of the offerings on the menu with more more than a nod to the japanese with its sesame dressing. Yet it works is fresh and delicious and clearly popular as it had sold out the first time we came here. It comes with a very smooth avocado mousse or a blob of guac if we aren’t being too fussy about such things, and its blandness is a nice counterpoint to the rich tuna.
Tortilla with Spinach and Jamon
There are 3 different versionson the Tortilla here – all of which made to order (which I think you can just make out at the bottom of the menu) The Classic, the gambas and Piquillo Pepper and the spinach and Jamon. A word of warning here they are cooked so that the centre is liquid and is all the more delicious for it but for those who prefer a firmer set (whoever they maybe) please take note.
Not pictured here but sampled on the first visit
Pan con tomate – good chewy bread copious tomatoes good oil plenty of salt and a sprinkling of basil – gone in 60 seconds – what more to say other than “I could be on the costa brava and !?!?another round please”
Ham Croquetas – As per the pan con tomate – you’ll see plenty of people sampling these while they wait. crunchy creamy and with a cool centre – in other word expertly cooked and you won’t burn your mouth if you eat the whole thing in one go greedy guts style.
Chips with bravas sauce – Now if you sit at the bar you will notice a tray of chips waiting expentantly by the fryer. I’m not sure how many people order these – perhaps there is a snob factor here “I can’t possible order chips over the Chipromnes dear” well let me set you straight – oh yes you bloody can! and You should – these are chips of a higher order and that bravas sauce sets them off perfectly.
English Strawberries & Licorice
There are some excellent classics in the desserts Santiago Tart, Creme Catalan and a chocolate tart all are popular but we opted for a new item the strawberries with licorice sauce. Those strawberries are perhaps the first of the season sweet and good The licorice sauce light and not overpowering but bringing out the sweetness of everything. A good finish.
Wine is fairly priced and there is unsurpringly expect a good and fashionable sherry list and some interesting Spanish offerings both red and white.
A very acceptable Cuartro Rayas, Verdejo at £24 boasting 89 Parker points. (If such things concern you) was a quality fruity number ideal on a warm early summer night. I did also notice a Belondrade y Lurton, again from Rueda on the menu at £54. Steep for some perhaps, but I tasted this a few months back at Decanters spanish tasting and it was a standout white that usually retails for around £25.
The cons….. and this is probably the biggest – the queue of course! Yes – get here after 6:30 on a Friday and you’ll be looking at a 1.5-2 hour wait. I’m not going to sugar it for you even at the best of times you could be looking at 45 minutes. Yet this doesn’t deter the faithful, and wait they do, willing those already seated to get the hurry up on and leave.
But don’t despair and be put off, the staff are utterly charming. They ease the pain of the queue with wine, a wink and orders of olives and Croquetas from the short bar menu. So the torture of those delicious smells is abated, whilst your stomach growls and you decide which of the delicious treats to go for, once you eventually bag one of those elusive seats.
So go go go endure the queues or get there early, its worth it. And there is good news …. another Barrafina is planned for later in 2012 in Covent Garden.
Barrafina, 54 Frith Street London, Greater London W1D 4SL.
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday: (closed Bank Holidays)
Lunch 12pm – 3pm
Dinner 5pm – 11.00pm
Lunch 1pm – 3.30pm
Dinner 5.30pm – 10.00pm