Tasty tapas at Barrafina in stunning Coal Drops Yard

Tapas for two at Barrafina

How I love being a Londoner. I moved here in 1985 and after 33 years am still amazed at the way the city evolves. There’s always new and exciting things to discover, I mean always and sometimes really exciting things. Like today. I headed north to King’s Cross to explore the new development at Coal Drops Yard – which only opened a week before my visit.

The history of the area

The fascinating history of this area began with the coming of the railways when King’s Cross became the hub for delivery of everything London desired. Most vital of all was the coal – Victorian London was powered by coal and Coal Drops Yard was where it arrived from the North, was stored and distributed through the city.

Once road transport became more prevalent the buildings fell into disuse…well that’s progress for you. Until they were reinvented as the heart of London’s ecstasy-fuelled club scene in the early 1980s. Okay, that’s something I totally missed out on (there’s not much no clubbing in my social history). And that went too in the late noughties.

Now Coal Drops Yard is somewhere I totally want to spend my time. An incredible array of shops and restaurants to try in a beautiful new area that’s been redesigned around the warehouses that existed there originally.

Even better it’s home to one of my favourite Spanish restaurants in London. Barrafina, Coal Drops Yard is the fourth in the Barrafina stable – I’ve been to the other three (naturally!) which are in Soho and Covent Garden (two). Today’s new baby is set upstairs overlooking the canal and the fabulous courtyard below.

The light pours in through the huge windows and the long curved bar is a welcoming sight. And oh the aromas…

There’s a delectable range of dishes using classic Spanish ingredients (both hot and cold). One of the things I love most about Barrafina is that although you have a a good idea about what you’re going to get on your plate it’s never quite what you’re expecting. And in a good way…it’s always better. You’ll soon see what I mean.

What’s on the menu

There’s a tortilla section which included an omelette with artichokes and sobrasada. I adore artichokes and love sobrasada – which is a spicy sausage from Majorca – so excitedly ordered what I expected to be a normal kind of tortilla. But it wasn’t. A flat omelette was topped with the crisp artichokes and the deliciously soft and spicy sobrasada. And boy do they know how to make an omelette in Barrafina. Just so perfectly oozy and flavoursome. Tortilla heaven!

Barrafina: tortilla

A tantalising tortilla to dream about

Delectable pork dishes

I also adore suckling pig and the Spanish really know how to produce the best of them. So the suckling pig empanadilla was next on the list. Beautifully encased in a light and crispy pastry it was filled with succulent, tender meat. Love its paper envelope too.

Barrafina: empanadilla

The elegant and tasty empanadilla

Next up…more pork. The presa Iberica was served on a bed of ajo blanco. Presa Iberica is considered to be the finest cut of the Iberian pig – which many say is the finest pig. So you’re getting the finest of the finest, an unbelievably juicy plate of meat so perfectly cooked and again bursting with flavour. Ajo blanco is a chilled almond soup (another Spanish classic) – served here with a sauce-like consistency. Spanish pork rules and it’s hard to imagine a better pork dish. Seriously.

Barrafina: presa iberica

The best cut of pork from the best pig…simply the best

As luck would have it yet another of my favourite ingredients was on the menu – beetroot. Beetroot Salmorejo to be specific. I’ve got to be honest and say I had no idea what salmorejo means so was pleasantly surprised (again) when a delightfully sweet beetroot puree arrived topped with a soft quails egg and the crunch of cucumber. A wonderful combo of flavours and textures.

Barrafina: beetroot

A real indulgence of a beetroot dish

Wow! I can’t remember when I last got so excited about four plates of tapas. Believe me, they really were that good. And the venue is awesome, too. Here’s the downstairs courtyard.

Barrafina: the courtyard

Beautiful Coal Drops Yard with its sweeping roof

And you have a great view out through the massive curved windows.

Barrafina: windows

Light streams in through the large windows

How to get there

King’s Cross is like a medium sized town now – with constant rejuvenation going on. The station is something of a maze and as someone with a below average sense of direction (being kind to myself), I was a bit concerned that I’d get horribly lost. Just make sure to take the exit from the station signposted Regent’s Canal and you’ll be fine (I was). More signs lead you straight to this wonderful addition to our beautiful city. It’s even been given a brand new postcode – N1C – something that I’ve never experienced in my time here. London, you never cease to amaze me.

Barrafina: sign

Follow the signs to Coal Drops Yard

Today’s price point

Our four tapas dishes came in at £44.80 and were plenty big enough for two. We didn’t even have space for dessert.

Wine starts from £25 a bottle.

Barrafina is at Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross N1C

Top tapas and service at Barrafina

Today I’m enjoying a taste of Spain in Covent Garden. Two of my favourite places in one! I love tapas, sharing lots of dishes works for me, after all you get to taste more of the menu.

It is believed that  this Spanish practice started in Seville where bartenders would cover (tapar in Spanish) wine glasses with a small plate to protect the drink from fruit flies. At first the plate was empty and then they began placing a slice of ham on top, which obviously their customers loved. So to keep customers coming they started creating different dishes to serve in these mini portions. Now tapas is a world-wide phenomenon, and London is packed with delightful Spanish eateries. One of my favourites is Barrafina, so when their third branch opened recently in Covent Garden I couldn’t wait to visit.

The restaurant is set up for bar eating with a beautiful marble L-shaped bar in a light-filled contemporary room. It’s a lovely space and you’re greeted by smiling staff as you settle down into one of their plush bar stools.

The menu is neatly divided into sections which helps with the ordering quandaries (a little). There’s cold meat, fish, seafood, meat, omelettes and eggs, vegetables and a char grill section.

First up we went for roast peppers, anchovies and pan de coca – a special Spanish bread. A wonderful mix of sweet and salty, with a perfect crunch.

anchovies

A vibrant tower of peppers and anchovies

And then one of my best tapas dishes ever. The pheasant egg and morcilla de Burgos on toast. Morcilla is a sausage similar to black pudding, it’s rich and velvety with an amazing flavour. With a hollandaise-like sauce and perfectly fried pheasant eggs (something I’ve never had before) this reminded me of eggs benedict – kind of a more exotic Spanish version. My mouth is watering right now as I think about it. If you go into Barrafina any time soon make sure it’s first on your list to order!

morcilla

The tastiest tapas ever? Possibly

And definitely order some chips. They were magnificently garlicky, perfectly cooked and piping hot.

fries

Garlicky chips with dipping sauces

Our final dish came from the Char grill section – chorizo, romesco and radish. I love romesco sauce, made from peppers and almonds and other nuts and it went perfectly with the richness of the chorizo and the freshness and crunchiness of the radishes.

chorizo

Succulent chorizo on a bed of romesco sauce

A thoroughly amazing selection of tapas and some of the nicest service I’ve ever had in London. Barrafina does have a policy that you can’t book, so it can be tricky to get in. And you’re not allowed to be seated until all your party is there. So bear in mind that you may have to queue (which you also can’t do if all your party aren’t there, though you could have a drink on the side), or go earlier or later for lunch and you should be okay. It’s really worth the effort.

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The beautiful space that is Barrafina

Barrafina is at 43 Drury Lane, Covent Garden