January 22nd, 2015
On Tuesday Sue invited me to lunch at Barrafina (Adelaide Street) and having read a glowing review by Fay Maschler, I didn’t need to be asked twice. Just a glance at the menu prompted a comment of, “I’d like to eat it all!”
Barrafina owners, Sam and Eddie Hart, say that the excellent Cal Pep in Barcelona was the inspiration for their restaurant. One sits behind a long bar and an army of cheerful chefs take your orders from a tapas menu which doubles as a place mat. Most of the food is prepared in front of you and a specials menu is handed round on a small blackboard. Barafina doesn’t take reservations, so it’s first come first seated. On a cold Tuesday in January we were lucky and had no trouble finding a place.
I was really looking forward to trying the ortiguillas de mar (sea anemones), very popular in Andalucia battered, or dredged in flour then deep fried. I’ve seen them occasionally in the Boqueria fresh and I know that top Catalan chef Albert Marimon sometimes cooks them with fried eggs, but I’ve never eaten one before. We were served about six of them in a little brown paper cone (like chips) with a wedge of lime and a pinch of course sea salt. They were wonderfully crunchy on the outside and had a softer middle, tasting of the sea, a bit like a fried oyster. I thought they were absolutely delicious – nothing icky or unpleasant here – I could eat lots of them!
Our second choice was croquetas de cangrejo (crab croquettes).
I adore good croquettes and these were to die for, as you can see from the detail above – beautifully crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.
We spotted the alcachofas con allioli (deep fried artichokes with allioli) being prepared and had to try them. They come with a little dish of home made allioli, sprinkled with pimentón. Even the allioli (an emulsion of olive oil and garlic) was of superior quality – I could have spooned it onto bread and eaten it as a standalone course!
We watched the chefs cooking mini tortillas, about 5 or 6 inches in diameter and ordered a tortilla de gambas, ajetes y setas (tortilla with prawns, mushrooms and garlic stalks).
The tortilla had a beautiful soft, runny middle, with a texture like melted cheese.
We had a plate of tiny, deep fried chipirones (baby squid) – crunchy on the outside and delicate in the middle. I had to order more allioli to go with these.
Sue had a craving for vegetables and ordered a salad of fennel, pear and radishes. I’m not a fan of fruit in salad, but was very happy to eat the fennel with radishes.
For pudding Sue had helado de turrón (turrón ice cream)
and I had a wonderfully tart and tangy sorbete de limón (lemon sorbet).
To wash down our lunch we drank Hart Brothers Special Selection Manzanilla Passada en Rama – a complex, nutty sherry, bottled unfiltered (en rama), raw, to preserve the original flavour. A lot of the natural flavours are lost through excessive filtering to create traditional, paler, clean looking sherries.
Executive Head Chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho is cooking food at Barrafino worthy of the very best restaurants in San Sebastian and Barcelona. Lunch/supper for two with wine or sherry will cost £60 plus, but it’s worth every penny.
Barrafina is at: 10 Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, WC2N 4SL