Ah, Christmas. My favourite time of all. I eat too much, I drink too much and it’s all a laugh and a half…until I realise my jeans are feeling a little too tight for comfort and my bank balance hasn’t looked that pathetic all year. But, hey! Nothing and nobody will ever dissuade me from my love for that magical month of December. The twinkling lights, the jovial spirit, the gathering of friends…the excuse to indulge excessively on any given night of the week. It’s just the best.
Luckily, it just so happens that The Influencer shares a similar [over-] enthusiasm for the festive season and since moving to London we have made a point of organising a girl’s night out to mark the occasion each and every year.
Although the establishment itself is hardly the defining factor of the evening, we always manage to ensure that restaurant selection becomes a rather painful procedure. This isn’t necessarily because we disagree when it comes to the choosing…it simply comes down to the fact that each of our go-to lists are so extensive, it is near impossible to narrow all of our Must Go places down to just one.
This year, however, it was easy. We more or less simultaneously agreed that merry times called for merry measures…and that nowhere was merrier than whiling away the evening hours over wine and share plates at Barrafina. This was one of the first restaurants we dined at together when we first arrived. It also happens to be my favourite spot in London for authentic Spanish tapas. An all-around winner, really! Sold.
Why do I like it so much? Aside from the obvious fact that the food is banging – it honestly is very, very good – I simply think it is a really fun place to perch yourself for a feed. There is an open kitchen and a beautiful marble-topped bar where you can sit and watch all the action [I have said it before and I will say it again: Chef Porn]. In addition, I love that they have a daily changing specials menu based on what is good on any particular day.
There are three Barrafinas in London – the original site is on Soho’s Frith Street, whilst the other two are situated on Adelaide Street [my personal favourite] and Drury Lane in Covent Garden. We initially quibbled over which of the locations we should visit, but eventually settled on Adelaide Street, because…crab croquettas. My god, how I am obsessed with those croquettas.
We arrived at around 7:00PM on a Thursday and were offered standing space in the surrounding bar area whilst we waited for seating at the counter to become available. This was convenient given cava and olives were always going to be our first point of call.
No more than 30 minutes passed before we were ushered into the main dining area and we quickly ordered a selection of plates to share.
Being something we are rarely able to move past on any menu, the shoulder of Iberico de Bellota (£15.80) was, predictably, the first dish to hit the table. And it was perfect.
Especially when paired with a little pan con tomate (£3.80 each).
Next were my beloved crab croquettas (£6.50 for two). To be honest, fried balls of molten goodness are not something I generally get excited over. I actually tend to breeze right past them if they are ever presented to me. But, THESE! Keep them coming and pray I get full. Crispy, creamy and, not surprisingly, tasting of crab, they were as good as I always remember them to be.
I was decidedly less in love with the salt cod fritters (£6.80). My reasoning for this is that they probably suffered from being the encore of their predecessor because the flavour was good…and I huddled over that tartare sauce as though losing it would ruin our outing completely. My only wish would be that they were a touch more crisp.
A zingy bite of queen scallop ceviche (£3.60 each) broke up our fry-fest and restored our virtue once more. Yum! Not my first and probably not my last.
Aaand then we were straight back onto the Lovers-Of-Fried-Food Bandwagon…
NB: Yes, I am fully aware it appears as though we downed a whole lot of fried fatty fancies…and that’s because we did. However, in retrospect, as well as in our own defence [or is it?], we had downed quite a bit of wine prior to dinner, which I suspect probably had a lot to do with it. BUT! Christmas.
Forever a good sport when it comes to my offal-loving ways, The Influencer granted me my one off-cut pick of the meal…and the second I saw herb-crusted sweetbreads (£7.80) on the specials board, it was never going to be anything else. [Although the suckling pig snout was a close second]. Topping a gribiche-like sauce, these were absolutely delicious and even my offal adverse dining pal fought for her fair share.
Our final main dish was the arroz de marisco (£14.50). Deceptively simple-sounding, this was absolutely packed with flavour and was nothing short of satisfying. Total winter food.
Zingy and refreshing, a fuss-free salad of fennel, Comice pear and radish salad (£8) did a good job of lightening the load.
Since first becoming acquainted with the kitchen counter at Barrafina almost three years ago, my love for her has only ever grown. I love the vibrant atmosphere, the casual dining style…and the food is absolutely fantastic. As expected, Barrafina was on point when it came to delivering an evening of Christmas merriment…in fact, probably a little too on point. [Cut to me waking up the following morning, fully clothed and on top of the bed covers]. That said, I would pay her a visit on any occasion. Any occasion at all! An excuse is hardly needed when those crab croquettas are involved.
I will be back. And soon.