I had been warned: don’t show up at Barrafina a moment after noon or you’ll have to wait for a table. But with a hectic morning behind me, of course that is exactly what I did. Arriving at 12.15pm, every seat was taken. The helpful staff offered us a table outside but we didn’t feel up to braving the elements. The short wait, however, was a good opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine – the Hart Bros Albariño – and some marinated olives and Marcona almonds while browsing the menu. An excellent start.
Serving Spanish tapas, Barrafina Drury Lane is one of three Barrafina restaurants owned by Sam and Eddie Hart. If tapas doesn’t excite you, don’t write this off. Barrafina is in a different league. Barrafina Frith Street opened in 2007, going on to win a Michelin star, which is unusual for such an informal dining spot. So successful, the restaurant is known to turn tables eight times a day (the usual figure is two or three maximum).
With one long marble-topped bar, diners sit on red leather high stools overlooking chefs busy at work in a state-of-the-art kitchen. This is dining best suited for two, but there’s a private dining room for up to 24 and a heated dining terrace for eight outside.
Head Chef Javier Duarte Campos grew up in Barcelona and his experience encompasses a stint at El Celler de Can Roca and a position as senior sous chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. The menu combines classic favourites with contemporary dishes inspired by the team’s trips to Galicia, San Sebastien and Mallorca. Unique to Barrafina Drury Lane, a section of the menu focuses on Tortillas y Huevos, offering a mix of traditional and modern Spanish egg dishes.
We started with a few standard bearers of Spanish gastronomy: Paletilla Ibérica 5J ham, Pimientos de Padrón and at our waitress’s suggestion, Portabello croquettas. Spectacular. Further sharing plates followed. The highlights included stuffed courgette flower drizzled with honey, pork belly Mojo Verde, and last but not least, the star of the show, Arroz Negro, a warming black squid ink-sodden rice topped with grilled squid and served in a copper pan.
From the specials menu, the barely seared deep pink tuna on a bed of smooth avocado was a standout winner, along with some tasty fresh peas and duck egg, topped with a sprinkling of crispy ham. The specials are refreshed every day, and the inventive combinations of seasonal ingredients continue to push the boundaries of cooking.
The wine list beautifully matches the menu and includes some interesting Spanish producers. My husband particularly enjoyed the Hart Bros Special Selection Manzanilla sherry.
Although not a formal dining experience, the food is a treat for even your most senior colleagues and VIPs. But remember, Barrafina Drury Lane is a no reservations restaurant and operates on a first come, first served basis.
BARRAFINA DRURY LANE
43 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AJ