LONDON | Where to take a first time visitor to London? When you have an out of town guest, the pressure is on to deliver on the restaurant selection. Barrafina Drury Lane is the new, Covent Garden outpost of the popular Spanish casual dining restaurant and as we’re big fans of the other 2 Barrafinas it seemed like an obvious choice.
Opening in July 2015 in the heart of the West End theatre district, one is transported upon entering Barrafina Drury Lane from central London to Spain. The atmosphere is energetic, the decor is lively, and the service is impeccable. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a genuinely friendly member of staff who explained the queuing system as we were all Barrafina novices. The restaurant operates from an L-shaped counter top where guests are served in the order they arrive. You queue inside (so long as there’s room) along the wall with a little counter top. Much better than other places having you queue outside given London’s unpredictable weather. There’s a strictly no-bookings policy, however the venue features a private dining room downstairs if you are planning a special event that can be booked.
While you wait you are able to pass the time with a glass of vino and snacks from the “para picar” section of the menu. We couldn’t resist nibbling on the marcona almonds, padron peppers, and pan con tomate while we waited. We started on a carafe of the Sierra Cantabria which was so smooth we really regretted not committing to a whole bottle from the on-set.
It’s the perfect place to have a long overdue catch up while you await your table. During the wait the friendly server kept us in the loop on an estimated waiting time and kept the wine glasses full. Her updates on remaining waiting time were also accurate, and it kept us in the loop about how much longer we had to wait. The wait never felt tedious, and the combination of updates/estimates and the availability of food and drink from the menu (almost) made waiting a pleasure!
We were a group of 3 so perhaps had to wait longer that an even numbered group but like many good things, it was worth the wait. The menu is inspired by all parts of Spanish cuisine, with dishes inspired by the food of San Sebastien to Mallorca and everywhere in between. In addition to the printed menu, Barrafina Drury Lane features daily specials. We were really craving some traditional tapas so could not resist the old favourites like patatas bravas (£5.80) and the tortilla esponala upgraded with chorizo (£7.80). We also went back for a bit more of the pan con tomate (£2.80). We love the counter-top experience-it gives you a birds eye view of the tremendous energy involved in the food preparation. The staff were very helpful and attentive throughout the meal, even indulging my feeble attempts at Spanish.
Executive head chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho is renowned for making the best tapas in London. Based on our experience, we’d have to agree. Two of us had spent time studying in Spain and the experience at Barrafina channelled the best of Iberia. An unexpected highlight was the baby gem salad with the botarga, walnuts, pancetta, and manchego (£6.80). It had the texture and flavour that leaves you asking why don’t my lunchtime salads pack this kind of punch. We also enjoyed one of the daily specials, the Middlewhite Pork Cutlet (£14.80). Overall, the meal was just one of the dining experiences you just look back on fondly-like a film that stays on your mind long after leaving the cinema.
The Hart Brothers were the pioneers behind the no reservations booking policy in London, revolutionising Soho’s foodie scene, making London dining less formal and more fun. Barrafina’s 3 locations are in close proximity, but they are not clones. Each location has a unique menu and we look forward to completing the Barrafina trifecta (The City Lane editor-in-chief Paul loves the Adelaide Street branch). The Firth street outpost of Barrafina has already nabbed a Michelin star, no easy feat for such a causal, vibrant place.
When you are battling the throngs of tourists in the West End, keep your eye on the prize: Barrafina: Drury Lane. The Soho food barons, Sam and Eddie Hart have done it again.
Barrafina Drury Lane
43 Drury Lane
London WC2B 5AJ
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:00pm to 11:00pm