Barrafina Frith Street – Visit No. 2

Posted on Monday, 23rd February 2015


Barrafina Frith Street opened to critical acclaim in 2007 following on from the success of its sister restaurant Fino, both of which are owned by the restaurateur brothers Sam and Eddie Hart. 2014 proved to be a great year for the pair, with a second branch of Barrafina opening on Adelaide Street, also to critical acclaim, and the original Barrafina on Frith Street winning a Michelin star.

As most Londoners know, Barrafina Frith Street is a tiny establishment. There are 23 stools which line the L-shaped marbled bar. There is a no-booking policy which means that at peak times diners can expect to wait for at least an hour before being seated. I first visited Barrafina in 2010 and thought it was brilliant (you can read about that visit here). The only thing that deterred me from going back was the thought of that dreaded queue. But with a Michelin Star comes the weight of added expectation. So despite the knowledge that we would have to wait, it felt like the right time for a revisit.

And wait we did, an hour and a half no less, and this was on a Tuesday evening. The saving grace was the fact that we were able to order drinks and nibbles as we stood in line. That said, the service was incredibly slow and we struggled to be noticed or served.

We started with two old favourites, the croquetas and the tortilla. Ham croquetas (2 for £4.50) contained a deliciously creamy béchamel filling and a crunchy exterior. They were a little salty, but they were very tasty. A prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla (£7) came with a runny centre that was lovely and warm. This was also tasty, but in contrast to the croquetas, was a little under seasoned.

Barrafina Frith Street - Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street – Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

To some poultry dishes and we tried the grilled quail with alioli (£7.50) and the chicken thighs with romesco sauce (£7.50). These were both yummy and well-seasoned. The skins were crispy and the accompanying sauces each worked well with both the birds. Also as topping on the chicken was fabulous mixture of fresh parsley, crunchy almonds and crispy shallots. Although both were tasty, a little less cooking time on each would have helped to elevate these dishes further. The birds weren’t dry, but neither were they as juicy as they could have been either.

Barrafina Frith Street - Grilled quail with alioli

Barrafina Frith Street – Grilled quail with alioli

Barrafina - Chicken thigh with romesco sauce

Barrafina – Chicken thigh with romesco sauce

We tried two items from the daily specials, the ox tongue with horseradish alioli (£6.80) and the secreto Iberico (£8.80). First to the ox tongue, this was very nicely done. It had been crumbed and fried which gave it a crispy finish and which also served to seal in the moisture of the meat. The tongue was tender and delicious and it paired nicely with the sharpness of the horseradish.

Barrafina Frith Street - Ox tongue with horseradish alioli

Barrafina Frith Street – Ox tongue with horseradish alioli

The secreto Iberico is so called as it is a ‘secret’ cut of meat between the shoulder blade and the loin. The meat itself had a good flavour, but it was also surprisingly chewy and tough to eat. It had not been rested properly either, and this was evident from the bloodiness that seeped out of the flesh when we cut into it. In all, this was an unremarkable plate of food. The accompanying chicken stock and sage jus was delicious however, and worked well with the pork.

Barrafina Frith Street - Secreto Iberico

Barrafina Frith Street – Secreto Iberico

The highlight of the evening was the dessert, the Santiago tart (£4.70) which consisted off a lovely, buttery pastry base, a thin layer of quince jelly, and an almond filling with a hint of lemon and orange zest. The filling was glorious. Beautifully nutty, it was also light and airy and showed off a delicate sensibility.

Barrafina Frith Street - Santiago tart

Barrafina Frith Street – Santiago tart

The food at Barrafina Frith Street was good, very good. But it wasn’t as good as my first visit. On that occasion I was thrilled by some exalted cooking which was both exciting and brilliant. This time, I left the restaurant feeling that I had eaten a very good meal, but not a particularly special one. With a Michelin star comes an expectation and hope – the expectation that I would be wowed at some level and the hope that at least one dish would blow me away. Tonight the closest dish that came to wowing me was the Santiago tart. But other than that, there was no one item amongst the savoury dishes that captured my imagination enough to inspire me to want to wait an hour and a half again. The conclusion – Barrafina is good. But a Michelin star? I think not. Was it worth the wait? No. But I would go again for a pleasant tapas meal during off-peak hours, especially seeing as the prices are pretty reasonable.

And the service? Full credit to our waiter who took the time to explain the menu to us in great detail. But we struggled to get any attention during our one and a half hour wait so this was a negative.

Summary Information:

The Santiago tart.
The food was good.
Reasonable prices.


The food was good, but I not good enough for a Michelin restaurant.
The long wait.

Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: Depends on how many dishes you order, but 3 dishes and a dessert per person will cost about £30 to £40 per head.


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