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|Address:||54 Frith Street, London W1D 4SL|
|Tel:||0207 813 8010|
|Price: £44.00||Wine: £19.00||Champagne: £65.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-3pm 5-11pm Sun 1-3.30pm 5.30-10pm|
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I'll 'fess up. I'm a Barrafina fanboy. Other tapas joints come and go, but the tiny open kitchen surrounded by a ring of covetted stools has remained consistently one of my favourite places to eat. Freshly sourced food, cooked as simply as is needed, around that bright buzzy little bar. It's not one you'll often hear me recommend though, as it's another (possibly the first) of the no reservations crowd.
Get there dot on 12 for lunch and before 6pm if you need to know what time you're eating, otherwise just accept that you're going to have a wait, always. With a good glass of wine (or five) and great company the wait for a space at the bar won't be a problem but you will be there for a minimum of 2 hours. The small front of house team (most of the ‘waiting’ is done by the chefs) can be slightly stroppy and on occasions disorganised while you stand outside the hallowed ring of seats, this will be in part due to your frustrations as you inhale the tantalising fumes. They're friendly enough and endearingly quirky once you're sat at that marble counter.
Listen to the specials as they reel them off the tiny chalk board. Most are fish, different depending on the day. We started with lightly yielding razor clams doused in garlic and parsley off the board, fresh from the ice, to the grill to the plate in front of us, still alive as they hit the searing heat, a journey of no more than a metre from start to final destination.
From the same grill came tiny gamey quail, cooked well with a soft touch delivering the lightest crust. Other hits included a perfectly cooked frittata, its eggy innards oozing prawn and picante pepper, and a selection of meats, hand carved to order. So far, so excellent. If salt cod fritters, patatas and a heritage tomato salad didn't reach the dizzying heights it was because there wasn't a dizzying height needed.
A decent bottle of rose (with one or two supplementary glasses needed) and the bill came to around £50 a head. Perfectly acceptable for the quality and quantity consumed. Journey time, estimated at two hours, was closer to three, and as we finally rolled off our stools and out into mid-afternoon Soho, the queues had finally subsided.