Barrafina – revisited

After putting Barrafina in my top ten restaurants in London list I decided it was well worth a revisit.  It is the perfect restaurant to go to with only one other person given its tiny size so I went with my friend Johanna for some tapas and drinks.  Barrafina was just as good as I remembered and we had a brilliant night perched at the bar sipping on glasses of chilled white wine while we sampled the tapas on offer.  My original review is below with updates in italics.  

Octopus with capers

The secret to not having to queue at Barrafina is to get there just before six. (We got there at 7pm this time and were able to walk straight in although by 8pm it was packed and the situation may be different on a Friday or Saturday night).  Having decided on previous occasions that the queue was too long it was good to finally be able to walk right in to a seat at the bar. Barrafina is a tiny place with a no bookings policy and it is fabulously popular, hence the issue with queuing. The decor is light and sleek with lots of white marble and mirrors. All the seating is positioned around what serves as a bar and open kitchen. The bonus of this is all the theatre of watching your meals prepared and also spotting dishes which look good and adding them to your list of orders.

I went to Barrafina with my friend Claire who is somewhat of a bad influence on me when it comes to drinking champagne. She loves it, I love it and when we are together bottles of the stuff seem to evaporate into the atmosphere. So in this spirit we ordered a bottle of rose Cava and settled into our stools at the bar.

We started with croquettes. When you cut them open cheese spilled out of them in delicious contrast to the crispy bread crumbed exteriors. Next we tried the coco which was a type of thin flat bread sprinkled with spinach and raisins and served as somewhat of an antidote to the cheesy croquettes.  On our next visit we ordered both of these again and they were both brilliant.  The croquettes are very rich and filling and a bargain to boot at £3 for two.   

It is difficult to resist chorizo at a tapas bar, particularly when it is being grilled within a metres proximity of you, as is the case at Barrafina. The serving size was generous and not for the faint hearted or diet conscious, but it was very satisfying. To be honest, I could have ordered chorizo all night, as each plate which was being prepared in the open kitchen looked so delicious. However that would have been gluttonous and would not have left enough room for alcohol, which was really the primary purpose of our catch ups. So we restrained ourselves and ordered off the “specials” which essentially comprised the seafood options.  

We opted for the mackerel, this unloved oily fish was served grilled atop fried potatoes and garnished with crispy pancetta.  A perfect finale to our Barrafina experience.  It was time to relinquish our spot at the bar to one of the hungry souls who had come a little after six and so were stuck in the queue. Clearly a beginners error. 

This time we tried the grilled octopus with capers and the sardines.  The octopus lacked the crisp, char grilled flavour that I was hoping for and so was a little disappointing.  Still, the capers added a salty kick and worked well with the octopus/  Sardines a la plancha were a bargain at £6 for four sardines.  They were grilled simply and then served with a splash of olive oil, chopped parsley and some curls of chilli.  The flavours were robust and satisfying.  My love affair with Barrafina continues.  The tapas here are as good as you can get in London and the extensive list of specials means that there are always new dishes to try along with the old favourites.  

Details: 54 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4SL (Ph 0207 813 8016) Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Damage: Reasonable
If you liked reading this you might like reading about my favourite tapas bar in Spain, Nou Manolin.  In London I also like Tiendo Cuatro.  

Barrafina on Urbanspoon


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  2. Must give this place a go – even though I am developing a bit of an aversion to ‘food on chopping boards’ (not sure if it’s better or worse than ‘food on slates’) – the octopus does look good and I might have to forgive them this… 🙂

  3. Have you been to El Faro?

    I must visit Barrafina soon, it sounds great!

  4. I second Lizzie’s comment on El Faro. The place serves surprisingly good tapas (given its location in Harbour Exchange Square, near Canary Wharf, you wouldn’t expect much). Even though the quality of ingredients is nowhere near that of Barrafina, El Faro is half the price with a nice waterside seating area.

  5. Grobelaar – Too true! Food on chopping boards and slates is everywhere. I forgive Barrafina though as this was the only dish they served like this.

    Lizzie and American in London – No – since you both recommend it looks like I had better head out to Canary Wharf!

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  7. One of my absolute favourite places to eat in London! I love Barrafina to bits. Just walked past it and it was sooo busy as usual. I’ve never had to queue though, as I always time it so as to avoid a long wait.

  8. Hi Gourmet Chick

    Firstly, I LOVE your site!

    Secondly, Barrafina rocks and no Aussie chick should leave London without getting on a bar stool there at some point!

  9. Rebecca – Thanks for your comment and I very much agree!

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