Almost three years ago when we got married a friend of ours got us a Barrafina cookbook as a wedding present. Since we constantly discussed food together it was a highly appropriate & lovely gift. I did some online research and found that Barrafina is a top tapas restaurant in London and dreamed of going ever since. Once the London flights were booked it was top of the ‘must visit list’ and we did just that.
Barrafina is one of these ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ places – understated and off the main thoroughfare. Thank goodness for my trusty smartphone and google maps. Arriving as their lunch session was finishing we had planned to go for dinner but both being hungry we chanced our hand and were welcomed in.
Just in case you are planning to go I’ll tell you some things that I found out in my research. One is that they don’t accept bookings, two is that it is a teeny tiny place & three is that it’s likely to be packed to the rafters. I didn’t realise quite how small it was until we got there. Seating is all along the bar and there are no tables out with this. I’d guess there’s about fifteen seats in total and I’ve heard that there is a queue most days when they open for lunch and dinner. A ledge goes along the other side of the room and is used to rest drinks on whilst you are waiting for a table. It’s not the kind of place you linger in so it works & I can imagine it’s bustling and ever so Spanish at night.
There were some quick decisions made because we didn’t want to keep them back at the end of lunch (luckily another table came in after us too). We ordered bread with olive oil and then a cold meat platter, which was sliced in front of us when we ordered. Salami, chorizo, jamon Iberico… so simple yet so so good. Quality trounces fancy ever time.
So far the only disappointing thing had been that they did not have balsamic vinegar. And I had over two years of expectations so it was almost a miracle.
Ham croquetas had to be ordered because I’d never make them at home. Fiddly, fried & overindulgent should be kept for restaurants. These little orange balls were crispy and moreish with a hefty amount of bechamel. The ham was strong in flavour so cut through the rich creaminess.
We decided to forgo the octopus with capers for the special fish of the day – seabream stuffed with herbs and lemon. All I have to say about this dish is that it was marvellous. When we returned home we realised that the recipe is in our book and we have made it at home twice now.
Our last offering was a difficult decision. I narrowed the choices down to grilled quail, milk fed lamb and chorizo, potato and watercress. After choosing the former it occurred to me that we had also chosen the meat platter but I guess you can never have too much meat on your birthday. I’m confident that we would have raved about all of the above as much as we did with the chorizo.
Next time I will leave space in my belly for the pears in red wine or Santiago tart. I say next time because I don’t want to imagine never going back here. I’m in love.