The Hart brothers seem intent on conquering the Spainish restaurant market in London, and barrafina is a fine example of a simple concept (a tapas bar) executed with style and panash.
Like a sushi bar (or Joel's eponymous L'Atelier), the L – shaped bar grants an excellent view of the chef's at work. The fish sits proudly on display centre stage and the plancha is fired up and ready for action. The action is all fairly low key, less Hell's Kitchen b******ing, more gentle ribbing, amongst the young staff. I do, however, love the fact that, although the chef is directly in front of you, you have just seen him (and they do all seem to be him's) prepare your food, it is then sitting there on his side of the counter, he has to call a waiter to pass it the twelve inches to you! Come on, muck in; it really isn't beneath you to pass the food, especially as the chefs are all happy to chat away with the customers as they go about their business.
Of the myriad dishes on offer, the razor clams stand out, as does the suckling pig and the blood sausage with quail eggs. The tortilla's are perfectly cooked right in front of you and the Jamon Iberica sliced paper thin.
As you'd expect from a tapas bar (although generally don't get in this country), there is a good range of sherry's (try the Pastrana), as well as a short, but keenly priced wine list, of which all are available by the glass. Albarino is one of those trendy grapes at the moment, and the Paxo de Senorans on sale last time is very good, but they also have some interesting Godello and some white blends from wine producing corners of Spain you might not have come across before.
On the niggle side, prices are very upper-end Soho (not individually but, like any place where you order lots of little dishes, they soon do add up), and the no-booking policy can be a pain, but overall, and excellent little place in the heart of Soho.