To be bestowed with the honourable Michelin star gives you every right to be flash, lavish, deluxe and proud, and Barrafina does this well as the glam hits you from the moment you walk in. Even just standing on the side waiting for a seat makes you feel very ‘la-di-da’, as you watch the commoners outside go about their daily lives – hail to the interior designer.
The Soho branch is set like a bar, which is brilliant because once you’ve sat down, got your drinks, and had an explanation of the menus, you’re left with the option to either converse with the party you dragged here in the first place, or drool at the live performance of food, flames and finesse of the chefs at work before your very eyes. It really is dinner and a show, plus a lot of Spanish being yelled from left to right – it’s tempting to join in. It also helps that the chefs and waiters are pretty darn friendly, so if you’re shoving cameras and smartphones in their faces – of course for the sake of the ‘gram – they really won’t mind and may even play along, if they’re in a good mood.
When the food starts magically appearing before you (in very speedy time), keep in mind that like most Michelin ranked restaurants, it’s quality over quantity, so if you’re looking for big portions to match the fairly big prices – you won’t find it here. But you’ll definitely find a quality that will make your visit worthwhile! As I’ll explain below.
The first dish to pop on our neck of the counter was the classic ham croquetas. Show me one review or article that doesn’t mention Barrafina’s croquetas and I will personally sue, for these are a must have in the starters. What you get are two battered balls filled with creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheese and small chunks of ham. The filling moves the taste buds like a general demanding attention from the troops – since it was flavoursome and STRONG, with a charred and crunchy edge from the slight burn of the battered shell. This motivational mouthful was exactly what I needed for the rest of the action.
Next was the tuna tartare, another strong dish, this time in the form of a cold sashimi dome, very well-seasoned with herbs and paired beautifully with avocado puree to cool the tuna’s zing. The gelatinous texture was divine and again melts in your mouth, while the tuna flavour was rich, briny and memorable. Too much, however, might become a challenge for the stomach.
The chipirones being battered baby squids were surprisingly bland, it needed lots of lemon, salt and pepper before being even mildly satisfying, so I wouldn’t recommend this. But I would definitely recommend the classic tortilla, another must have on the Barrafina menu, due to the clever creativity of this moreish and comforting potato gateau with a delicious egg sauce oozing out of its perfectly cooked dome.
The octopus was similar to the tartar (without the reminder of sushi), neat little cuts of octopi seasoned with class by a fiery umami seasoning bringing the wriggly flesh to life. The texture was a fantastic balance of slime and chew, and the taste was a good kind of fishy, plus the salty kick of the seasoning.
Then there’s the golden boy of the meal: the stuffed courgette flower, truly Michelin level stuff due to its perfect hint of batter coating the delicate yet flavoursome courgette, which hides the heavenly surprise of goats’ cheese, intelligently sweetened with honey forming a stellar combo. It was a reaction that I rarely get with food and I’ll be singing its praises for a long time.
Barrafina has definitely earnt its star in my opinion, it’s an exciting place with exciting food at fairly reasonable prices, making it a Michelin experience that all can enjoy, and that’s why I like these guys! So I would recommend it to everyone.