Posted on Wednesday, 20th October 2010
The thing that has always put me off about going to Barrafina, a Spanish tapas restaurant owned by Sam and Eddie Hart (the brothers who also own Quo Vadis and Fino), is the fact that you have to queue for a seat. Whenever I’ve walked into Barrafina and asked them about the waiting time, the standard response has always been 40-45 minutes. This is why I have never eaten at the restaurant even though it has been opened for a number of years.
Well I finally decided to brave the queue. Even with an early 6.15pm arrival, the wait still ended up being an hour, the boredom of which was alleviated only by the fact that you can order drinks as you stand in line. By the time we were seated, not only was I starving, I was also a little irritable after having stood for so long. But eating at Barrafina made it all worth while. It was like an epiphany, and I now understand why the crowds come back again and again and endure this exercise in patience. It’s simply because the food is so damn good.
To get us going were ham croquetas (2 for £3.50). The filling was made up of a decadent, runny béchamel sauce with ham that oozed deliciously as you broke into the crispy breadcrumb casing. These were scrumptious. Gambas al ajillo (£7.70), prawns with garlic, were moist, tasty and aromatic from the garlic.
A dish of octopus with capers (£8.80) was gorgeous. The octopus was meltingly tender, and the acidic and salty nature of the capers heightened its flavour. However, the octopus itself could have done with a touch more seasoning.
In contrast, the prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla (£6.70) was over seasoned. The combination of the prawns, potatoes, eggs and peppers were well balanced and worked well together. I enjoyed the tortilla, but I would have enjoyed it more had it been less salty.
From the specials of the day – razor clams with garlic were divine. Razor clams can be chewy if overcooked, but these were cooked just right. Nicely seasoned, the hint of garlic worked a magic on the clams.
Grilled quail with alioli (£6.70) was cooked to perfection. The skin was crispy, and the flesh was moist and succulent. The alioli was creamy and smooth, and its subtle garlic flavour did not overpower the delicate sweetness of the quail.
Grilled lamb cutlets (£9.80) were tasty. But the cutlets were very thinly sliced meaning they ended up being well done rather than medium rare. The parsnip puree was creamy, but a little heavy and a touch too salty. This was a decent dish, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. I also thought that £9.80 was a little pricey for two small pieces of meat.
To dessert, and I went for the Santiago tart (£4.50), a crushed almond tart, which was absolutely sublime. The filling was decadent, light and moist, so moist in fact that I was surprised that the tart held together. The pastry was also light and flaky. This was heaven on a plate and it set my taste buds alight.
The service was pleasant, although as you sit at the counter facing the kitchen, there wasn’t that much serving to be done.
The décor at Barrafina is funky and tasteful. But the restaurant is also quite noisy, and the bar stools were designed so you don’t want to sit there for too long.
The food at Barrafina is just soooo good. It sings of freshness, quality and skillful cooking, even if there were occasional bouts of over seasoning. Barrafina was a classy act and I can’t sing its praises enough. The whole time I was eating, I was awash with the desire to keep ordering as I just wanted to try more and more off the menu. Now that I’ve discovered the joy that it brings, I find myself absolutely hooked. No doubt I’ll be joining that dreaded queue again.