Harden's survey result
“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.
“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!”
For 32 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).
Have you eaten at Barrafina?
Barrafina Restaurant Diner Reviews
"First visit since lockdown and observe, you can now book, the menu is reduced and prices are higher! Plenty of staff so service is as fun and attentive as ever. All cooked freshly is perhaps the key here but while the dishes are relatively simple, they are all very well executed. Reduced menu (there are specials too) may mean fewer visits though. "
"Incredibly busy and buzzy restaurant. We had not realised this was counter service only but in front of the kitchen so you could watch the chefs at work. A little tight and nowhere to put coats or other items. Very friends staff, all Spanish speakers. All the orders were given in Spanish. The atmosphere is very buzzy and the food authentic Spanish tapas. Rather noisy!"