Restaurants , Spanish Covent Garden
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(4 user reviews)
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© Paul Winch-Furness
© Jael Marschner

Barrafina Adelaide St

© Paul Winch-Furness
© Paul Winch-Furness

The Covent Garden branch of this Spanish tapas-paradise, fantastic food but with a no-reservations policy that makes queuing almost inevitable.

Who’s to blame for the no-reservations trend, which leaves us queuing for an hour or more to get into a restaurant? Some might point the finger at places such as Polpo in Soho, Burger & Lobster in Mayfair or Meat Liquor in Marylebone. But the first restaurant that gave a mandatory wait with dinner was Barrafina in Soho, which opened in 2007. And that hour-long queue for proper Spanish tapas is still there. So is this second branch of Barrafina worth the seven-year wait?  

Taking no chances, we arrived just before the 5pm opening time and were the first customers seated, allowing us to watch the other tables fill up over the next hour. Much like the original Barrafina, it’s a simple room, but beautifully done: a long marble countertop, tall bar stools, plate glass windows letting in lots of light, and smiling Spanish staff in crisp white and maroon uniforms.

Barrafina’s menu is studded with Mallorcan and Catalan tapas dishes. Ortiguillas are a type of sea anemone eaten around the Balearic Islands. There, they’re marinated in vinegar, coated in a tempura-like batter and fried. Here they’re served in a paper cone, a crunchy seaside snack with soft centres, like fried oysters.  

Escalavida con pan de coca combines a firm Mallorcan bread base (the ‘pan de coca’ bit, like a flatter, chewy ciabatta) with a topping of chargrilled aubergine, peppers, onion and garlic, the smoke from the grill permeating the vegetables. The grill is still a core part of the Barrafina formula, for example in pintxos morunos, little pork kebabs which were tender and very moist.

These little snacks are tempting and delightful, but watch out if you’re properly hungry, as the bill adds up fast. A solitary courgette flower, stuffed with soft white cheese and drizzled with honey, was a seasonal treat and winning combination of savoury and sweet, but is no bargain at £7.80.  Dessert of flan (crème caramel) came in an eggcup-sized portion for £6.50, albeit served with a squirt of nut-flavoured whipped cream. But despite the fancy restaurant prices, you need to remember that Barrafina isn’t a ‘proper’ restaurant; it’s a modern Spanish tapas bar, with a list of sherries, cavas and other wines by the glass that are as much of a draw as the food, and perfect for experimenting with as you nibble.

As we left  after a very light meal – it was only 6.15pm – the standing queue was already starting to form, the charming staff coping with the onslaught admirably. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Venue name: Barrafina
Address: 10 Adelaide Street
Opening hours: Lunch noon-3pm, dinner 5pm-11pm Mon-Sat; 1pm-3.30pm and 5.30pm-10pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square or Charing Cross; Rail: Charing Cross
Price: Meal for two with wine and service: around £90.
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Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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Barrafina is my go-to treat restaurant when I feel like spoiling myself with a mixture of sublime dishes that can leave you a little light in the purse afterwards. This isn't a cheap lunch/dinner out, especially if you want to experience a good selection of different dishes (which you do) and have a well rounded meal with plenty of different cooking styles and ingredients.

The menu is gloriously varied, with different meats, vegetables and twists on classic Spanish tapas dishes. This certainly isn't ordinary tapas - every dish is elegant and bursting with flavour and innovation.

The milk fed lambs kidneys are up there with one of my favourite dishes in London. The salty, juicy kidneys sizzle lightly over hot coals - the presentation alone is appetising, but the flavours are even better - bold, unique and mouth watering.

Another of my favourite dishes in London can also be found in Barrafina and this is the tempura battered goats cheese stuffed courgette flower, drizzled with honey. FUN FACT: myself and my boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend: awkward!) filmed for couples Come Dine With Me before Christmas (air date sometime in Spring this year) and for our starter we recreated this exact dish with the help of the chefs at the Frith Street Barrafina Restaurant. They even supplied the courgette flowers for us. This is a stunningly beautiful dish - it's light, sweet and a beautiful mixture of textures. It's also pretty complex to get right (and trust me, I know!) so we can now understand why this single flowered dish will set you back around £7 - but believe me, you'll never try a tastier vegetable!!!

My one bug bear about Barrafina is the inability to reserve a table. I despise having to queue for my food. I HATE the no reservations trend. Really hate it. I just think its unnecessary - it goes against the art of organisation and pre-thought and means you have to either dine at silly times for wait ages to get a table, which tends to put me in a bad mood and no matter how great the food, there is always the hint of a bitter taste in my mouth throughout the meal. Luckily the few times I have visited Barrafina there has been a surprised lull in custom and i've managed to get in without waiting longer than 5 minutes, but I have had several occasions where i've been turned away unless I was willing to wait 45 minutes. No. I think restaurants like this should maybe set aside 3/4 tables available for booking and leave the rest for walk ins. It would make it so much more fair and enjoyable!


I visited Barrafina Covent Garden last week with my partner and we really enjoyed the experience. We waited for a seat for about 15 minutes, but this wasn't a problem as we were able to wait indoors and have drinks and nibbles while we waited. Bear in mind though that this was a Monday night at about 6.30pm, so this may not always be the case! The waitress suggested a bottle of Rioja which was delicious, and we were soon sat at the bar-style tables enjoying a good meal. The communal seating makes for a good atmosphere and the menu is varied and full of delicious options for anyone. We had a variety of dishes which were lovely, the only thing that wasn't to our taste was the rabbit, which was covered in something that resembled (and tasted like) moss. Other than that it was great and we will definitely go again!

Angela L

I had seen so many interesting Instagram posts of this branch and was probably expecting too much because all in all, I found everything a little bit bland. The vegetarian options were few but they all needed more seasoning for my tastes. The classic tortilla was very runny – was that on purpose or was it simply under-cooked? The presentation of the artichoke looked amazing but it was literally just deep fried and served with flaked sea-salt some sort of flavoured mayo which on all accounts were underwhelming and under-seasoned.  My friend chose a couple of seafood options from the main and daily menu and I kid you not, everything was deep fried or covered in batter or breadcrumbs and then deep fried. We couldn’t even fit in dessert because our intestines was just too full of grease. The redeeming factors were the staff that served us were very attentive and you can’t get a bad seat in that place (ground level bar) – with a view of all the action in the kitchen. I will however go back for what looks like a spectacularly wobbly crème caramel (which is called something else on the main menu had I known I would have ordered anyway).

Nadia W

We were amongst the first to book the private room for a family dinner for 13 . Eleanor, through whom we did the booking was very helpful with choosing the menu and  wines.

On the evening the room looked  glamorous  and inviting, the welcome was very warm and friendly . We  had some delicious nibbles standing with a glass or two of sherry . When we sat down the staff timed the arrival of the superb food to perfection and the evening was great fun . Do NOT miss the crab croquettas !