I’m chatting up an attractive American viola player à gauche whilst ignoring her husband when a nutty and complex glass of sherry from the the Hart Bros own label- a Manzanilla pasada en Rama (£6)- turns up with some stupendous olives (£3.20).
Cuttlefish Empanada (£7.50) would be called Black Rice Pie up north but neither name capture the unctuous piscine sensuality of this dish. The viola player orders the standalone black rice and I convince her to share with me as the husband explains how the Euro economies should put their houses in order…
Fiona insists on Chips with Brava sauce (£5.80) and who am I to disagree. The smoked paprika and mayo combo is ideal with dry crispy chips. In case you were worried about our alcohol consumption we had moved on to a bottle of Tzakoli Ameztoi 2014 (£6.50 per glass)- Tzakoli is the deliciously light mineral sparkling white you find when you are on a txikiteo-the Basque equivalent of a pub crawl-around the bars of San Sebastián old town (Parte Vieja).
Razor Clams (£7.50) always seem rather rude to me. They are dead easy to cook but not that easy to find so I always order them when I can-as with snails the rubbery texture needs to be lubricated with oil and flavoured with garlic and herbs as they were here-yum.
The Caribinero (£16.50) is probably the poshest prawn you will meet with a price to match. Like a high-class hooker wearing NARS lippy she entices with her scarlet hue (named after the colour of the Spanish customs officers’ uniform) and packs more flavour than is decent. I sucked the juices out of the head and made a bit of a mess to be frank, but the viola player didn’t seem to mind…
Chipirones (£6.80) are baby squid-here deep-fried and paprika seasoned. I could stuff my face with endless amounts of these crisp squidgy squinfants.
Torrijas (£6.80) is a sort of ecclesiastical Spanish version of a French toast. Normally a Lenten treat, bread is soaked in milk and wine with honey and spice, then dipped in egg and fried in olive oil and before you can say triple heart bypass you have your Torrijas. I definitely felt spiritually enlightened and was about to convert the violist when I realised she had flown the coop…I drowned my sorrows with a smooth glass of Alameda Oloroso Cream made from blending old Oloroso’s with Pedro Ximinex (£6.50)-it was sweet but not too sweet but still with a raisiny backstory.
The Selection of Spanish cheeses (£12) featured a Manchego, a blue and a couple of others I was too drunk to remember. They were really good…!
All three Barrafinas are great places. With a no booking policy unless you are hiring one of their private dining rooms you now have three West End options for getting in. Prices aren’t cheap but for the quality of the produce, the standard of cooking and the buzz of the rooms complaining would just be bad-mannered.