Barrafina is a modern Spanish tapas bar in the heart of Soho. The restaurant has been around for a while and built a reputation of reliably well-made Spanish tapas. In terms of location it perfectly blends in among the mix of bars and restaurants in the area being a mix of both itself. Barrafina only has 23 bar stools and a few tables outside when the weather allows. Seating is based on a first come first serve policy, no reservations taken. This means that on a hot summer evening queuing time easily surpasses 1 hour. I can already say now before going into details that it’s worth the wait.
Barrafina is part of a group of successful restaurants including Fino and Quo Vadis. Fino is a good alternative about 10-15 min away for people who prefer to book in advance. I went there last year and the menus at both restaurants share many common items with Fino being slightly more expensive in exchange for a more comfortable environment.
I came here with my friend mid-week just before 8pm and we were lucky to be seated just after about 30 min. We sat right in front of the dried meat glass box. The menu offered a variety of tapas sectioned into Cold Meat, Seafood, Meat, Vegetables/Salad and Desserts. Do note that in terms of alcohol Barrafina only offers wine/sherry, no cocktails.
First off was the Gambas al ajíllo. Not only did it look very inviting but it had incredible flavours. The garlic definitely was a key ingredient in the flavour boost. There was a faint bite from the red pepper.
Barrafina offers three different kinds of tortilla but we went for the plain one made of potatoes and egg. While being plain it was different from many tortillas I’ve had in the past in that it’s soft and runny inside. I loved it but I can see that some people wouldn’t like it. The potato was sliced very thin. The tortilla had a nice savoury punch.
This was one of the daily specials we ordered. It was deep-fried in a crispy, light batter with a drizzle of honey. The flower itself was stuffed with rich goat cheese which was quite nice with the honey.
The monkfish was served with baby potatoes and spinach. I love monkfish because of the firm texture so I decided to get it as soon as I saw it on the menu. This one maintained its bouncy meatiness and was a nice dish overall.
Inside the deep-fried shell was a creamy thick cheese, green leaves and ham. For cheese lovers this is a good dish to try, otherwise I think there are more interesting items on the menu.
The chips could be more crispy.
The meat was cooked perfectly maintaining the juiciness. It was a delight with the thick and rich Al-i-Oli dip.
The two of us shared 7 dishes. The monkfish was slightly bigger than the other plates so I would say around 7-8 plates is the right amount to order unless you’re very hungry. The quality of the food was excellent, staff were relaxed and friendly. Another thing I like about Barrafina is that they don’t take reservations. This means that it’s possible to do a spontaneous meal on a whim during the weekend when many of the good places are booked out already, but be prepared to queue. I have tried Fino before and although the food is very similar if not identical for some dishes I like Barrafina better because of the atmosphere. Tapas is meant for sharing and I think it should be done in a environment where everybody are sharing a bar table.
For more photos from Barrafina, please visit my Flickr set.
54 Frith Street
London, W1D 4SL