Post-lockdown, the Drury Lane Barrafina re-opened on October 8 as Barrafina Mariscos, serving a blackboard menu of fish and seafood from Spain and the UK, cooked in the Spanish style.
"The idea for Barrafina Mariscos developed as a consequence of social distancing and creative thinking about how to turn the challenge of fewer covers and physically distanced chefs into an opportunity for doing something special and ambitious."
Harden's survey result
“As brilliant as ever… and being able to book is a big bonus!!” – the Hart Bros’ recreations of Barcelona’s Cal Pep are “still going strong”; and with the Drury Lane branch – Barrafina Mariscos – now dedicated to seafood. “Sitting at the bar is just so intimate”: “it’s fun to watch all the prep” and “watching the chefs at work simply makes you want to order more of the superb tapas”. “This is the food that made lockdown so hard. The food you can’t cook yourself… the courgette flower a crispy, yet unctuously delicious, dirty cheesy and honey- dripping delight, and the oh so, so, so oozingly fabulous tortilla with prawns and peppers”. And “the people watching is fabulous” too. One warning flag though. The ratings slipped a fraction this year, alongside the odd comment that “while it’s very good on a good day, consistency can be an issue”; or that “what once seemed almost impossibly daring now feels more familiar and comfy”. Still, for most folks, it’s plain “terrific”. Top Tip – at all branches, not just Mariscos, “the fish is fantastic”.
“The tapas is perfection and the equal of Cal Pep in Barcelona” at the Hart Bros’ “vibrant” chain of small (typically 30 covers) no-bookings bars, which its vast fanclub acclaim as “the best tapas in London or in the UK or perhaps even in Europe north of the Pyrenees!”, with “delicious, ultra-fresh seafood” a particular highlight. The preparation at the counter is “still a great piece of theatre” and – buoyed by its “exceptional, friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff” – helps create a feelgood experience. The queue used to be part of the ritual, although the ability to book is one silver lining of Covid-19. The Pandemic has also led to the reformatting of the Drury Lane branch as ‘Barrafina Mariscos’ with a seafood menu and waiter service.
“The tapas is perfection and the equal of Cal Pep in Barcelona” at the Hart Bros’ “vibrant” chain of small (typically 30 covers) no-bookings bars, which its vast fanclub acclaim as “the best tapas in London or in the UK or perhaps even in Europe north of the Pyrenees!”, with “delicious, ultra-fresh seafood” a particular highlight. The preparation at the counter is “still a great piece of theatre” and – buoyed by its “exceptional, friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff” – helps create a feelgood experience. “Don’t be put off by the queuing – it’s part of the fun: sipping on Cava and nibbling on Jamon as you snake your way to the front of the line!”. This year, the group added a “slick outfit in the new Coal Drops Yard development” – “it lacks a bit of the charm and vibe of those in Soho and Covent Garden, but the edibles are still very edible!”
“The perfect alternative to a trip to Spain!” – in fact “the food is better than in Barcelona” in the branches of the Hart Bros’ small chain, which pays homage to that city’s Cal Pep with its small (no more than 30 covers) bars in Soho and Covent Garden (and – arriving in autumn 2018, in the trendy new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, alongside a covered and heated terrace separately branded as ‘Parrillan’). Confidently ‘surfing the Zeitgeist’ – no other individual restaurant, never mind group, has ever achieved such an outstanding and consistent level of support in the survey, over many years. There’s “no booking and no fuss” – “you often have to queue” (though drinks and nibbles help enliven the experience) and seating is “counter-stye” at the bar (“which works less well for any kind of group, but for couples is ideal”). With its “bold Spanish flavours” the tapas selection is “arguably some of London’s best food at any price, and remarkable value” (while by the same token “watching the chefs at work is brilliant” – “there’s nothing theatrical, but it’s mesmerising seeing experts so engrossed in their stations”). “The wine list is short, punchy and perfectly complements the food”, “staff seem to be having as good a time as the clientele” and the overall effect is properly “effervescent”. Top Tip: “always go for the daily blackboard specials, especially the fish”, which is “cooked to a tee and beautifully seasoned”.
For 31 years we've been curating reviews of the UK's most notable restaurant. In a typical year, diners submit over 50,000 reviews to create the most authoritative restaurant guide in the UK. Each year, the guide is re-written from scratch based on this survey (although for the 2021 edition, reviews are little changed from 2020 as no survey could run for that year).