Barrafina is in an awkward part of the CBD, and its location on the corner of Bligh and Bent streets has been home to a revolving door of cafes over the years. Hopefully Barrafina will hang around for a bit longer to deliver lots more of its Spanish-inspired tapas goodness!
It's all hard surfaces and industrial minimalism on the inside. Frankly, it seems a bit thrown together and slightly dysfunctional for the staff (whatever is in the cupboard that the waitress has to climb up on the bench top to get several times a night really needs to be put somewhere a bit lower!). But it's comfortable enough, and there's a few outside tables if you don't mind sitting down to eat on a busy intersection.
The atmosphere is pretty jolly. There's a bar section separated from the restaurant by imagination only and its a bit of an echo chamber. It feels mean to not say nice things about the staff but I got the impression they would have been delighted if someone at our table spoke Spanish. There was a lot of pointing and a few repeats and even a couple of wrong orders - but I got the feeling they really were trying hard.
The food makes it worthwhile though. A great range of small, tapas and main sized meals as well as sides. The produce is fresh and delicious and whoever is doing the cooking really knows their business. The dishes came out quickly and they all looked and tasted spot on. Our table had a bit of everything - standouts being a soft-shelled crab slider (who knew!), the crispy fried chicken and an unctuous slow-cooked lamb shoulder. We slightly over-ordered so I'm not even sure if they have a dessert menu. We each shelled out just over $50 each for more delicious food than we could handle a a couple of bottles of wine. Not bad for downtown Sydney.
I imagine that there's a crowd at lunch time, but if you happen to be caught in the CBD at dinner time, I reckon this could be go-to treat. My only concern would be that whoever is in the kitchen is destined for better things.
Barrafina is making the most of it's location by offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. It takes bookings and apparently the Italian restaurant serving out of the bar next door comes under the Barrafina umbrella.
Don't go for the atmosphere or service, but be prepared to want to go back for the food. Yummy!
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