When it comes to restaurant chains, people like Ronald and The Colonel run the show. London has plenty of those guys. But it also has a different kind of restaurant chain. A classy-casual one. You can think of Dishoom. And you can also think of Barrafina. You know, that classy tapas restaurant we’ve rated pretty highly in the past. But now, as is often the case with chains, its fourth location feels a little bit off the production line.
Barrafina’s thing is slick, bright, and clean counters. Kind of like an Apple store, but everyone’s fingering croquetas instead of iPhones. It serves modern and polished versions of Spanish classics. Stuff like empanadilla, but with suckling pig inside. Or patatas bravîsimas, with what tastes like the crispy bits from the bottom of the chip bag. Both are tasty, if a little so-so for twenty quid together. Basically this place makes shiny shiny tapas. Sometimes it’s just tasty. Other times it’s superb. Dropping in here for a glass of something and some croquetas is something you could really get used to. Unfortunately this feeling doesn’t extend to every part of this new location.
For a start it’s smack bang on the top floor of King’s Cross newest bit of real estate: Coal Drops Yard. These warehouses have been around since Victorian times, but somehow they feel bereft of character. The restaurant itself is all bare bricks, bright lights, and metallic surfaces. It’s what you’d get if the Dragon’s Den lot decided to fund a tapas restaurant. Whatever, that’s fine. But what isn’t is a restaurant that feels muted, even when full. It ends up being the kind of place you don’t want to spend a great deal of time in.
Would we recommend you come here for a slap up meal? No. Would we recommend you come here for probably the best tortilla in London, some pan con tomate, and a couple of glasses of wine? Definitely. This isn’t an all night location. It’s reliable, it’s tasty, but it’s not somewhere you’re going to head to for something special. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a chain thing.
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photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Pan Con Tomate
Bread with tomatoes on top. Little chopped tomatoes, on top of a slice bread. Red on bread. It doesn’t matter how you put it, it’s a must.
There are always a couple of croquetas on here. Cheese and ham is an age old combo for good reason.
This is a classic tortilla that’s become London’s classic tortilla. For £8, this is one the best value, best tasting plates of food in the city.
Suckling Pig Empandilla
The herbs and spices in this make it taste like a kind of festive pasty. This is fine, but by no means a must order.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
We’re in two minds about the Barrafina version of a classic. The crispy-but-chewy-bottom-of-the chip-bag potatoes are great, but the sauce is a bit meh.
Calamar And Butifarra Bun
This squid and sausage bun is a tasty, but not all that memorable an order. We’d recommend it over the empanadilla though.
Presa Iberico 5J, Ajo Blanco
This pork comes in a white sauce and is served chilled after being seared on the grill. It may not be what you’re expecting for £17.50, unless you’re expecting to be underwhelmed.
Cuttlefish, Burnt Leeks, Al i Oli
This is a rich stewed plate of cuttlefish with some strong charred, garlicky flavours going on. If you’re into the thought of that, you’ll really like it.