My search for best tapas is often judged by humble-looking little crispy croquetas. They must have a golden crunch on the outside but still be perfectly soft inside, whether studded with salty ruby ham, flakes of salt cod, or gooey with black squid ink.
The dish of two crab croquetas was one of the first things to arrive at lunch last week at the newly opened Barrafina on Adelaide Street (just up from the Strand, just a few down from the lovely Terroirs). It’s sister to the usually packed Soho favourite. This second site has the same seating along the bar, the metal top and stools snaking down the room, perfect for watching the cooking in front of you.
V and I were sat just in front of the glass-fronted croquetas fridge, all neatly crumbed and lined up. The crab kind were superb (two for £4.50). The colour and depth of flavour of the brown meat, with threads of the white meat mixed through – just the right squidginess inside. A brilliant start with the chilly glass of rose, alongside the Manzanilla olives (£3) and black blistered padron peppers (£5). I even got a hot one, in the game of pepper roulette.
There’s a blackboard chalked up with the specials. From this we picked asparagus with romesco sauce and salty shaves of manchego cheese (£6.80), and razor clams (not chewy at all), spiked with lots of herbs, garlic and lemon (two in their shells for £6.50). I watched the cooking of tortilla in the mini saucepans on the plancha across the bar – we had the option with prawns and mushrooms (£7), just runny in the middle as it should be.
Along with croquetas, something else fried was one of my other favourites. Stuffed courgette flowers are a very beautiful thing – slim tender stem with the crunch of batter around the dainty flower, stuffed with light, airy goat’s cheese. They are £7.80 each – you definitely need one each, I could probably eat a whole pile of them.
From the desserts, I tried to be virtuous with the summer berries and marjoram (£6.80), but it did come on crunchy sugary shards and swirls of cream, making it slightly less so, but deliciously sweet and light still. The other plate was two super-sugared ring doughnuts, with a pot of dark, glossy chocolate sauce (£6.50).
I have never quite made it to the original Barrafina, despite it being one of the most consistently packed Soho places. They are definitely some of the best places for tapas in London, and I would go for the croquetas alone – the crabby sort in Covent Garden, or the ham croquetas on the menu at Frith Street (I’m sure they are just as fabulous). They don’t take bookings, so turn up nice and early.