A friend of mine asked me what’s the best place for Spanish. Having told him to go to Barrafina, sister restaurant of Fino, I now feel obliged to show him some pictures of the place on my blog. Barrafina is no longer a novelty in Soho, having been opened for four odd years, but there is always a buzz, a long queue in the evening and at lunch. It was my favourite since the first day I ate at Barrafina four years ago, and it still is now.
I suppose, it’s the kind of restaurant that similar to St John makes you feel you don’t have to take yourself too seriously, no code of conduct, no protocol. There is only one long L-shaped bar table with diners seated on one side and the efficient chefs creating gastronomic buzz on the other side.
The menu at Barrafina is pretty much like Fino, really, with the focus only on tapas. Traditional Spanish dishes are served with a refining touch; here it is simplicity and top quality products at their best. Although the menu hardly changes through out the years, you can also ask for the special of the day from the prettily fresh array of seafood cooked a la plancha. There are also some “seasonal” dishes like this Deep Fried Courgette Flower Stuffed with Goat’s Cheese. The batter is very thin and crispy; it holds the soft, melting cheese inside the flower well. The dish is served with a tiny drippling of honey, giving contrast to the mildly salted cheese. Heaven!
The Jamon de Jabugo at Barrafina is also one of the highest quality, though not one of the cheapest, and I usually ask for a whole platter of it. Too bad they don’t serve Jamon Iberico de Bellotta. You can find the acorn-fed ham at Fernandez and Wells Lexington Street. They stock the ham by Castro y Gonzales. Alternatively, you can go to Harrods for the best Jamon Iberico de Bellotta from Meson Cinco Jotas at Harrods.
Another signature dish at Barrafina is this Chiperones, also known as deep fried baby squids. If you’re lucky, some of the baby squids are packed with ink.
Also, almost always available are these massive King Prawns cooked on the grilled and dressed with chilli, parsley and olive oil. The meat is white, ultra-fresh and cooked to bounce on your tongue! The best thing is you can massacre them freely with your fingers not having to worry about the appearances. Just do what everyone does at Barrafina and let all the manners loose! Plus, I am always given a bowl of water with a slice of lemon to wash off the smell and the grease.
Ok, I should perhaps say, for people of a normal appetite, you won’t need more than 3 dishes per person. I happen to have an abnormal size of stomach. So I ask for four to five plus desserts. And what I feel nobody can miss in a Spanish meal is a good Tortilla. The Barrafina one is probably the best I’ve eaten, better than the ones in Spain. It is cooked runny and you can opt for three different types of fillings: classic, spinach and ham, or prawn and chilli. The one I had last time was this deep-filled Spinach and Ham Tortilla.
I’d say the amazing thing about this Tortilla is the balance between the ingredients. A tortilla can usually be an unneceassarily heavy dish due to the amount of potato filling. The Barrafina version achieves this perfect layers of ingredients and the juicy onion gravy just added complexity and heartiness to this traditional egg dish.
I admit I rarely make it to the pudding at Barrafina, but when I can, I go for their very rich Chocolate Tart, but the Satiago Tart and Crema Catalana are very good, too.
My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.
54 Frith Street
Tel. 0207 813 8016
NOTE: First come, first seated. Go early before the evening folk flocks the place.