Please note, Nieves Barragán Mohacho is no longer executive head chef at Barrafina. Time Out Food & Drink Editors, May 2017.
However you feel about the now-ubiquitous trend for no bookings, you’ve got to admit that few places pull it off as well as Barrafina. The original Frith Street tapas bar pioneered the concept when it opened in 2007, and it has been so successful that the owners, Sam and Eddie Hart (whose blue-chip portfolio also includes Quo Vadis in Soho), have managed to open two more branches within walking distance. Far from taking business away from one another, demand has only increased.
This latest outpost is located on a plum corner site with beautiful arched windows, sand-coloured brickwork and more space to accommodate the (decidedly civilised) queue. While the layout is familiar – an L-shaped marble bar overlooking the open kitchen – Barrafina #3 is no retread. Almost everything on the menu is new – and executive head chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho (exuding practised cool during our visit on the second night open) has gone to town with it. Cuttlefish empanada had rich, flaky pastry and a butter-soft, ink-soaked filling; thick slices of incredibly tender pork belly came topped with toffee-like crackling and mojo verde (a coriander salsa from the Canary Islands); the crab bun, its rich, creamy filling oozing onto the plate, nods to London’s current penchants for street food and general excess.
We kept watching delicious-looking dishes being prepared under our noses, including a special of stonking great salt-baked prawns so big they could have eaten us for dinner. A big juicy slab of calves’ liver looked like a steak. But our last dish – tender roast lamb, served on the bone with crisp, rosemary-scented skin – quashed any intention to order more.
Don’t just go for the food. Go for the precision-drilled staff, wholly focused on ensuring that your time at the bar feels worth any wait. Go for the class-A wine list, which makes mixing and matching by the glass a no-brainer. Go for the buoyant atmosphere – at once thrillingly foreign and thoroughly welcoming. Just go: Barrafina #3 may be on Drury Lane, but it’s too good to leave to the tourists. Nicola Arencibia