Tapas in Covent Garden – Barrafina without the queue:
I’m ashamed to say that Barrafina has passed me by till now. Not deliberately, I’ve intended to go for a while, but I don’t like queues and if I’m honest I generally prefer sitting at a table to sitting at a bar. So, on occasions when the queues at the two better-established outlets have been reasonable, I’ve passed on the opportunity and hoped that perhaps my waistline will benefit a bit. Being asked to review Barrafina on Dury Lane, the latest of the group was enough of an incentive to accept I might need to queue (which I didn’t) and I asked The-Hedonist, a long time fan both of Barrafina and Quo Vadis, along for the ride.
I am early and sit at the bar nobly drinking water till he arrives. It’s a pleasant enough place with an open kitchen and a tempting looking display of fresh seafood. I’m close to submitting and ordering Padron peppers and a glass of something to drink when my companion appears.
It’s quick enough though for us to pick a sherry and some olives to share while we work through the menu. The ultra dry, chilled Manzanilla pasada en rama is fresh and nutty a good complement to the generous helping of a variety of green olives dressed with a citrussy marinade. En rama is the sherry equivalent of raw wine; with minimal filtering giving a stronger, deeper flavour. This particular Manzanilla is the own label of owners, Eddie and Sam Hart and has a reputation that goes before it. The-Hedonist doesn’t even need to check the menu.
Trying hard to watch my waistline (again), I decide this is the perfect opportunity to stick with a pescatarian menu. That’s partly because I’m lusting after the scarlet carabinero prawns on display and somehow think that turning down the pricier meat options will justify a £16.50 indulgence on one prawn. It turns out the flavour alone is enough of a justification – and enough to have my appropriately named dining companion asking if he can suck the head. I’m happy, though, there’s plenty arriving to keep me busy.
A plump, stuffed courgette flower is coated in a light batter then drizzled with honey for a stickily sweet and delicious mouthful.
Razor clams look stunning on the plate and are liberally doused in garlic, herbs and oil. I’ve left the ordering to The-Hedonist other than insisting on chips and THAT prawn but I’m not disappointed at all.
Cuttlefish empanada is a substantial dish. Comforting, rich and filling, it’s the opposite of my idea of a light, pescatarian menu but somehow addictively moreish.
I’ve never had chipirones before, but am assured by The-Hedonist that I will love them. Of course, I do, who wouldn’t like these tiny baby squid, battered, deep fried, seasoned with paprika and served with a squeeze of lime.
I could ALMOST have forgone my order of chips with brava sauce. Almost, but I would have regretted missing these light, crispy bites with a smokey, spicy brava sauce and a good helping of mayo.
We manage to fill ourselves up on food, all accompanied by a bottle of Txakoli Ameztoi, a Basque wine I’ve never tried before. It works beautifully with the fish dishes, minerally and fresh with just a light fizz. Of course, then we have to decide what to do for dessert.
In the end, egged on by our server, we decide to share a torrijas and a plate of Spanish cheese. Her justification seems entirely reasonable, she tells us that in Spain it’s something that she can only find during Holy week. It’s the Spanish equivalent of Pain Perdu, but somehow so much better, with bread that has been soaked in milk overnight before being coated in an eggy batter, fried and liberally dusted with sugar and cinnamon. Somehow we are both hungry again.
The cheeses follow and we nibble our way through before I finish the meal with a good Americano and we stagger out into the night to make our way home. I can’t comment on how this branch compares, but The-Hedonist is impressed and we count ourselves lucky to have been invited along early enough to avoid those queues. For my part, I intend trying the other two outlets sooner rather than later.
43 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AJ