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© Paul Winch-Furness
© Jael Marschner

Barrafina Adelaide St

© Paul Winch-Furness
© Paul Winch-Furness
Covent Garden

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.

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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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 !