In July, I moved temporarily to an apartment on the Southbank. This meant for a few months I was able to walk to my office in Covent Garden, taking in the view over Waterloo bridge, sidestepping the commuters along the Strand and cutting up Adelaide Street to walk up St Martin’s Lane. This means the opening of the second branch of the modern Spanish tapas bar Barrafina was on my radar before the doors even opened to the public.
However, i’ve only just found the opportunity to visit this new restaurant, 2 months after it opened with the same no bookings policy as its newly awarded Michelin-starred counter-part on Frith Street. I’d partly been putting it off due to the somewhat high prices of its ralatively small dishes, which start at £2 for a plate of bread and oil, and escalate up to the £18.50 mark for a plate of Iberico ham. I would estimate the average cost of a dish is around £7-8, and with the dishes traditionally being quite small, my fear was that it would escalate a bit too quickly for my purse’s liking.
However, there comes a time when price becomes of little concern when a dish is so delicious. On the Barrafina menu, there are a handful of dishes that really do seem worth the higher than average price tag.
A board of specials is explained before you order, including some larger dishes such as skate wings and sardines, and then a few smaller tapas dishes. We opted to try the fried crispy anchovies from the board which came with a healthy sized dollop of horseradish aioli and a sprinkling of chilli powder. I’m not used to seeing anchovies in their whole form… they’re usually slimily sprawled across a pizza or chopped and hidden beneath the leaves of my caesar salad. They’re bigger and heartier than I expected, with very thin edible bones. Tasty but not filling, and a little too easy to fall apart when dipped in the aioli.
Out of curiosity, we ordered the crispy pig ears (£6.50 for 2) which again came with aioli and a sprinkling of rock salt. I expected them to taste a little more like crackling, but instead they were thin, chewy and a little fatty for my liking, though the taste itself was pleasant.
The braised Ox-tongue with crushed potatoes was a favourite of mine at £6.80. It is a dish similar to a good hearty stew with the most succulent meat and sweet, soft onions. The sauce is rich and sweet, and the potato is fluffy and perfect for soaking up the flavours.
The chipirones (£7), a plate of breaded and deep fried baby squid accompanied by a big wedge of lemon boast a lot of flavour for pieces so small! The crispy skin tastes almost peppery and the squid itself is meaty and chewy.
The choice of fish is quite substantial on the Barrafina menu, and to my delight two of my favourite Shell fish can be found on there. A Queen Scallop ceviche (£3.50 each) and an Oyster with chilli and lime (£3.80 each) are both attractive to the eye when served in their original shells.
The Queen Scallop was unfortunately very small; less than a mouthful, in fact! While the flavour was beautiful you can’t help but feel a little short changed by the portion size. The oyster on the other hand was something quite remarkable. Rather than a raw oyster, it arrived in a tempura batter, warm with a gorgeously tangy chilli and lime salsa. As the oyster has already been perfectly shucked away from the shell, it slides effortlessly into the mouth. Cooking it seems to have made the flavour even more intense. While it’s not served in the traditional way I eat my oysters, I must say this is one of the best i’ve had, for the originality of flavours alone!
The Frit Mallorquin (£7.60) is a dish perfect for those who like to sample different cuts of meat, and especially those who are a little on the adventurous side. This is a selection of lamb cuts including lambs brain! It also comes with small cubes of sweet pepper and potato, seasoned well with a little bit of ju created by the meat. Individually the meat is a little simple and bland (lamb is never my meat of choice!) but a mouthful of all of the elements of the dish is quite delicious.
We decided, Josh and I, that we need more vegetables in our diet, and so we opted to try the courgette flower stuffed with goats cheese. Maybe goats cheese defeats the object of the vegetable goodness, and the same goes for the fact that it is deep fried, but the good intention was there. This might just be one of the most expensive vegatables I have ever bought, at an eye watering £7.80 each, but credit where credit is due, this might just also be one of the best vegetables I have ever tasted! The creaminess of the goats cheese mixed with the sweetness of the honey which had been lightly drizzled on top is enough to make a mouth jump for joy!
Finally, the best of the many dishes we tried was the Milk Fed Lamb’s Kidneys (£8.50) which are served over smouldering coals on a wire rack. There is a satisfying hissing noise as the juices drip down onto the coals. Each piece of kidney is a decent size, seasoned with a little bit of salt but the majority of the flavour comes from the natural, juiciness of the kidney itself. Its not been messed with. It is as it is, and it’s beautiful. So beautiful in fact, that it convinced us to return to Barrafina again two days after our first visit.
You can expect to pay around £30 per head for a meal with that will more than satisfy you for lunch, including a cheeky glass of prosecco, but you might also want to try one of the sherry’s they have on the menu, which they seem to pride themselves on. You can also expect to queue but I would assure you that the wait is worth it. The atmosphere is relaxed; the marble top bar that winds around the open kitchen allows for casual dining which is also chic and classy. The staff are all very knowledgable of every single dish, both on the menu and the specials board, and are more than happy to provide recommendations if you simply cannot decide what to have. I returned to this restaurant within two days of first visiting. I don’t do that very often. I guess sometimes actions do speak louder than words… but I thought a blog would be necessary anyway!