When I visited: February 2017
Location: London, Drury Lane (there are also branches in Soho and Adelaide Street)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Recommended
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress / workwear
Ambience: Cool, smart / casual
Course of the meal: Pork belly
If I could change one thing: Less gapping in service
Barrafina has a bit of a buzz about it, helped by the fact that it won’t take bookings so often has queues out the door at peak times. I visited with my partner Owl who had to wait for me to arrive before getting a seat – they won’t let you sit down until your whole party is there. In this Drury Lane branch, which is recommended in the Michelin Guide (the Soho branch is starred), there are maybe 30 seats at the bar.
We shared a varied tapas dinner – coppa Iberico (well-crafted ham slices), crispy anchovies with horseradish sauce, Diver scallop ceviche (which was a little too salty), mackerel with apple and grape slices, and pork belly, which was the best of the items we sampled. The food was good but a little underwhelming and maybe a little too fatty. There was also a lot of ‘gapping’ in the service – it must be hard to coordinate serving tapas as it is hard to predict what will be ordered and some things obviously take much longer to prepare than others, but it does make the meal feel a little uneven when you get three or four things delivered and then have to wait a long time for your last course.
My partner Owl also tried a dessert – the arroz con leche (rice pudding), which came in a mini pot and was apparently almost exactly like kheer in Indian restaurants – and a glass of light red wine, which was described as ‘OK’.
Overall, I would go back to Barrafina to try some of the other dishes, but if you fancy a meal sitting at the bar with lots of small courses, I would recommend J Sheekey first.