Harden's survey result
“It’s a great show to watch the chefs at work”, perched on a stool at the counter of the Hart Bros’ “incredibly busy and buzzy” bars – their hyper-successful homage to Barcelona’s Cal Pep. “The tapas is always first rate” with “succulent grilled seafood all prepared in front of your very eyes” a highlight. “Staff are friendly and efficient and take such pride in the dishes and their presentation”. (In April 2023, executive chef Angel Zapata Martin left the group after six years, leaving Antonio Gonzales Milla minding the central Barrafina locations, and Francisco Jose Torrico in charge of Coal Drops Yard and Borough).
“Sights and smells of Spain sitting at the counter” provide “heaven on a stool” at the Hart Bros’ faithful recreations of Barcelona’s Cal Pep: still, after 15 years, one of the most-mentioned groups in our survey. The “extraordinary tapas is full of fresh ideas” – there’s “always something new to try on the menu” (created by their chef/director Angel Zapata Martin) – and it “still deserves top marks, particularly the seafood” (which is the only option nowadays at the WC2 ‘Mariscos’ outlet). A meal is “not cheap” mind you (in fact, even fans can find prices “crazy”) but the overall verdict? “Worth the queue, and the bill!” (In July 2022, they added a new, fifth branch to the group, in SE1’s Borough Yards developments).
“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.
For 33 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).
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Barrafina Restaurant Diner Reviews
"The food was delicious. Watching the chef cook the food was lovely. The staff were very nice, and I liked talking to them. The food brought a pleasant smell into the air. The service was perfect and so was the ambience and food. Five-star restaurant."
"We love it here for pre opera house dinner, especially now you can book. Sit at the counter, order a glass of dry and ice cold fino and watch the kitchen action before your very eyes. Great tapas menu and lots of specials to tempt. What's nice is you can see what the plates look like before you order by watching the head chef meticulously prep the dishes before they go out. Love watching the grill section and the fish on the grill is delicious. Also love the croquetes, the cos salad with anchovy and crispy pancetta and perfectly unctuous tortilla. Has a good busy vibe and lovely 'on the ball' staff. "
"Super food as usual. Very high standards maintained and nice that you can book here now. "
"Food was good as always but its not comfortable to sit, you are very close to the people next to you, and the service is a little erratic. "
"Did not like Rafois salt cod as it was slimy. Also eat pimientos, beetroot and blue cheese salad, patatas, tortilla. No bread. £80 for 2. Price includes one small glass of red wine"
"The food standard is still high although the choice seems slightly smaller. Stalwarts such as the goat cheese filled courgette (it is singular!) are excellent; this time we had special of monk fish which was large and delicious. Great wines and the service is prompt and very friendly by seemingly an all Spanish team, so you can have a great meal in well under an hour However it is ever more expensive that one courgette is £12 and the monkfish £32. You sit on round bar stools so its not comfortable - very much a tapas bar yet at restaurant prices. "
"Our new favorite pre opera dining especially now you can book a table. Great cooking and grat service and fun to sit and watch all the cooking right in front of you. The seafood and fish dishes all great and the tortilla is amazing, cooked to perfection."
"Second visit in the last 6 months where I've thought Barrafina is finally losing its sheen after almost 15 successful years. Not quite as slick and good as before. Still good but not wow."