Nieves Barragán Mohacho was the breakout star of Barrafina, and now she is overseeing her debut project, a three-pronged venue comprising a fino-fuelled bar, an upstairs restaurant (El Asador) and this “sensational” ground-floor tapas joint – a long, L-shaped counter surrounding an open kitchen decorated with colourful Andalusian tiles, serving the sort of Spanish-accented small plates you won’t find anywhere else in the UK.
Some of these plates involve tweaking the old familiar classics: oil-soaked pan con tomate is topped with a vivid ruffle of cured meat, “perfect” piquillo croquetas are dusted with a fine shaving of Manchego cheese, while garlic prawns have a wobbly, barely cooked texture and arrive atop a squelch of saline-heavy seaweed.
But there is much that tastes completely new, including a superbly cooked piece of presa ibérica served with a mojo verde so fragrant with coriander it tastes almost Indian. However, the kitchen saves its biggest surprise – and (arguably) its best dish – until the very end: bombas de chocolas, a trio of sinfully rich doughnuts dolloped with a sticky mess of chocolate and coffee sauces – like the most grown-up profiteroles imaginable.
On the downside, our wild mushroom croquetas tasted like deep-fried soup, and there will doubtless be diners who long for the straightforward comfort of chorizo and calamares – although we applaud Mohacho and her front-of-house partner José Etura for not simply Xeroxing the Barrafina formula. If you don’t want to queue for a seat, come early in the week for lunch, or book El Asador upstairs.