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

Exploring the New King’s Cross with a visit to Caravan

London is an exciting place to live. There’s always something happening, new places popping up, even whole areas being redeveloped. Like King’s Cross, once one of the shadiest and dodgiest parts of London, which has been undergoing a total transformation.

The station is now unrecognisable from the shabby, slightly scary place I remember from the early 90s when I had to walk through it on my daily commute – there seemed to be a lot of gloomy areas. It’s all shiny and light now and the train station has a beautiful curved glass roof. Outside there’s a clean and spacious area, with the magnificent St Pancras towering over it. Very nice.

It’s not just the station…I read that the King’s Cross project is the largest area of redevelopment in Europe and will include the largest new street in London since Kingsway in 1904 and the largest public square since Trafalgar Square in 1845. That’s Granary Square, which is built where barges once unloaded their goods and is now home to the University of the Arts, London. It’s also home to 1080 choreographed fountains (yes, really!) and two restaurants – The Grain Store and Caravan. Today was my chance to check out this magnificent new development and try some of the tasty morsels at Caravan.

Set in an old grain store, Caravan is spacious and modern with a lovely buzzy feel. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, it has an interesting and different menus with lots of small dishes so you can try a real selection. We opted to share four dishes which is perfect for a light lunch.

The Parmesan and artichoke arancini (little risotto balls) were beautifully crunchy on the outside and served with pea sauce, lemon and sauce vierge. Love pea puree, and it just looks so good, too.

arancini

Perfect Italian flavours, Parmesan and artichoke arancini

Moving swiftly on from the flavours of Italy to Greece and something completely different. The grilled kefalotyri cheese (which reminded me of Haloumi) was served with pickled mushrooms, skordalia and parsley. Skordalia is a garlicky mashed potato-type dip, served cold. Surprisingly good.

cheese

Grilled cheese with skordalia

The next dish doesn’t make such a pretty picture but the Balsamic glazed ox tongue served with beetroot, grapes and pea shoots was delicious. The tongue was packed with flavour and went perfectly with the sweetness of the beetroot and grapes.

tongue

Tongue with beetroot, grapes and pea shoots

And finally for some fish. I love croquettes in all their forms and these were right up there with the best. A lovely crumb and creamy inside of smoked haddock and leek served with lemon pepper aoli. Melt-in-the-mouth food.

Crispy croquettes with a wonderfully creamy filling

Crispy croquettes with a wonderfully creamy filling

Caravan is a really fun place to go with an inventive menu and relaxed, friendly service. There’s also a great terrace overlooking the aforementioned fountains for when summer comes around again…by then it will definitely be time for another visit and a catch up on the next stage of the amazing transformation of KC.

Caravan is at Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, Kings Cross N1C