My heart breaks every time I get asked to go to a tapas restaurant outside the Spanish borders. While the food is on the whole a good approximation of the right stuff, the experience is totally unlike the well-established, unpretentious social gathering that is Spanish tapeo.
Arriving promptly (5:40pm) at the doorstep of Barrafina we were met by a short queue. The ever so “no reservation policy” is practised here and my blood boils every time I am met with the back of someone’s head in a queue rather than a smile and “Here is your table Sir” entrance. But on this occasion, in a foodie sadomasochism way, I feel this fits the bill. What true Spanish tapas bar has tables with white linen clothe and silverware? Instead a sign of a good tapas bar is where everyone is packed in so tightly electrons are shared amongst them. This place was bursting to the seams with noise, smells,-organised chaos.
“Hey Chicos,entran dentro” - our cue to take a seat by the bar. During our “short” 40 minute wait we had chorizo and potato chips. Not what I imagined, it is actually a thin small chorizo sausage wrapped with a thin crisp potato blanket like a springroll but a really good springroll. It had a kick from the spices within and the crisp of the potato had the right thickness, it was very morish. A glass of Cuatro Rayas 2011 complimented well, fruity and smooth.
At the bar, like true Spaniards, we stuck straight into the food. The cod croquetas, were two balls of delight, crisp on the outside and a rich velvety gooiness oozing cod inside. Simple but accomplished. The chipirones- little fried squids, were crunchy and not draped in oil like many tapas bars do. The dish with all the bells and whistles was the octopus with capers. The octopus was cooked to perfection; tender and melt in the mouth moment- this was the highlight of the night. The salt cod a la Romana was another little triumph on plate. Bite size chunks of golden fried cod with a rich hollandaise type sauce, with a sprinkle of paprika to give that extra little lift. The pork belly was executed well and the girolles underneath gave a decisive balance to the dish. You cannot go into a tapas bar without trying the sardines. Two on a plate, packed with flavour, grilled to perfection. The patatas Bravas a very good interpretation, with their own home made sauce, makes a change to the usual fries and ketchup show. To end our culinary whirlwind delight, we had the crema catalane – Spanish version of the crème brulee. This was a faultless dish, the sugar thin as an ice sheet, the super smooth cream underneath had a hint of orange, I did not want to end this journey. The bill for three people came to £110.00 inc. service.
In Short: Tapas go back a long way in Spanish history. Some argue they were an invention of Spanish King Alfonso X ‘The Wise’. If King Alfonso X were here today, he would make Barrafina his local watering hole and enforce a law that everyone must go to Barrafina.
Don’t miss: The octopus and the crème catalane.
Pass on: Nothing.
Suggestion: Get there early i.e. 5:30pm. Expect tight spaces, but the chef is front of you is casting his wizardry over the food. Whilst waiting in the queue grab something light to eat with a nice glass of wine, the time will fly by!
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