Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I'm always hesitant when people suggest dinner in a tapas joint, because in my experience the food's usually very mediocre and the atmosphere a pale shadow of the bustling bars we sampled on holiday in Barcelona. So I decided to check out Barrafina, and mark off another place from Time Out's Top 50 list (total so far: 15/50).

We arrived quite early on a weeknight, but the L-shaped counter around the open-plan cooking space was already full, so we perched against the back wall for a (mercifully quite short) wait, admiring the displays of seafood and the diminishing head of suckling pig.
Once perched on a high stool, we started with some wine and some pan con tomate (£2.80), which was tasty though I think it's more fun when the restaurant gives you the ingredients to make your own: a toasted piece of bread, a garlic clove and a tomato to rub on it, and some good oil to drizzle on top.

The cold meat platter (£10.50) featured lomo (cured pork loin), chorizo (stained red by dried smoked peppers)and salchichon (a dark, spice-studied pork salami). We had to order bread to go with it (£2), but the extra expense was redeemed by some very nice olive oil.

From the day's specials, we had some very nice clams, zesty with lemon.

Next, I was seduced by the look of a duck egg topped dish prepared in front of us. This turned out to be pisto (£6.80), a Spanish take on ratatouille.
The grilled quail with alioli (£5.80) was beautifully cooked and had me gnawing at the delicate bones in a most unlady like manner.
The description -- "Lightly spiced with black cherries and plums" -- sold us a very nice bottle of Urbezo (£16.50)to wash down the feast.
For me, the place captured the tapas experience perfectly. Our only regret was that we were too full to try the suckling pig.

Barrafina, 54 Frith Street, W1D 4SL; Tel. 0207 813 8016; closed Sundays;

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