photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness
Barrafina Covent Garden
When I was growing up in a small village near Scotland, everyone listened to trance. The kids at my school in Newcastle were obsessed with Oakenfold and Judge Jules, and as someone who spent most of his time learning guitar in his bedroom, I didn’t get it. The first time I went to a club though, that changed. Loaded up on enough Smirnoff Ices to down a small (huge) dog, as soon as I walked into Baja Beach Club, I got trance. I just needed to experience trance first hand.
We at The Infatuation had a similar reaction the first time we visited Barrafina. This has long been one of the most celebrated restaurants in London, and having walked past this original Soho location for years and watching people queue up for hours just to eat tapas, we were initially skeptical. But then we finally went, and we got it. We just needed to experience it first hand.
Quite simply, the food at Barrafina is superb. This small Spanish restaurant doesn’t seem particularly special at first glance, but it most certainly is, thanks to perfectly executed Spanish dishes that will make you feel like you’re sitting at a counter in Barcelona instead of squeezed into a seat in the middle of Covent Garden. The communal setup, open kitchen, and free flowing Rioja add up to an energy that you really can’t find anywhere else in London, let alone outside of the Iberian Peninsula. There are now three Barrafinas, and this location has a particularly nice wraparound bar and big windows. But any location will be of stellar quality, so head to whichever’s closest.
When you do finally try Barrafina, having a strategy is essential. Go with one friend, not three. Side by side dining doesn’t work for more than two. Put your name in and grab a glass of sherry and olives and almonds to hold you over while you wait, but don’t eat too much as you’ll want to cover a lot of ground on the menu once seated. Once you do sit down, a server will be both you cook and your spirit guide through Barrafina’s menu of Spanish classics and super fresh specials. Check our Food Rundown below, but generally know that you want to go for a mix of both.
Then again, do it however you want, but just do it. Barrafina isn’t just a London gem - it’s one of the crown jewels, the proverbial Ministry of Restaurants. And to get it, you just have to go.
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Barrafina’s version of the classic Spanish dish is fantastic, robust on the outside and oozy on the outside. It’s a tortilla done right.
Stuffed Courgette Flower with Honey
There is literally nothing classier than ordering one of these and sitting back and watching a guy make it for you. You’ve come a long way from Wetherspoon’s, my son.
This is basically the Rolls-Royce of deep-sea crustaceans, a deep sea Atlantic prawn that’s revered by cooks the same way your 17-year old cousin reveres Tyler Durden. Order this once to try it, and move on.
Deep-fried baby squid. These suckers are as good as you’ll get them anywhere, and are perfect for throwing back between sips of cava.
These are the ones to order when you want to sound like you know what you’re doing. They’re prepared simply, and are very, very good. Pretty much the whole idea of Barrafina is eating simply cooked seafood in expensive-looking surroundings, and razor clams are exactly the kind of thing you want to get at a place like this.
There’s usually a whole board of specials that are only available on that given day. It doesn’t have to be lemon sole, but it’s a good idea to get one of the fresh fish plates, as they’re all superb.