Barrafina could claim to be one of the most influential restaurants in London. Having revolutionised the London tapas scene, it's a name near impossible not to mention when talking about Spanish food in the capital. It was the first of its kind to introduce a no-booking policy to central London restaurants – something radical 16 years ago when the first branch opened on Frith Street in Soho. It secured a Michelin star – a rarity for a restaurant seen as informal and casual. And, it served up Spanish food British people had never encountered before, overhauling the better-known mayonnaise-slick patatas bravas, soggy calamares and tough garlic prawns for plates of crispy fried chiperones, tender solomillo, torrijas and gooey tortillas accompanied by fine Spanish wines and sherry.
The brains behind the unwavering force of Barrafina are brothers Sam and Eddie Hart, who run the Harts Group of restaurants – something you'll be familiar with if you know the likes of Quo Vadis, Parrillan and El Pastor. The indelible mark the brothers have left on the capital's food scene is profound. A philosophy grounded in radically unfussy dining using good quality, lovingly sourced produce, with deeply knowledgable staff and food prepared in front of you that overhauls the idea good restaurants need silver service, button waistcoat waiters and a hushed atmosphere.
Another vertebra in the spine of Barrafina is Basque-born chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho – its original head chef, who now runs her own solo venture, Sabor. Having headed up the kitchen since its first opening, Mohacho was head chef across two restaurants, oversaw a third opening, won Frith Street its Michelin star and, most importantly, was responsible for devising a menu of tapas which had the capital hooked. She is unanimously cherished and respected by the capitals chefs, diners and food critics alike and was fundamental to Barrafina's burgeoning success.
There are now five Barrafinas in London, with the original site moving from Soho's Frith Street to Dean Street, alongside two in Covent Garden on Adelaide Street and Drury Lane; a fourth in Kings Cross' Coal Drops Yard, and the fifth in Borough Yards. Each has an open kitchen to watch the chefs work and counter-style eating with a marble-topped bar. Throughout the time of Barrafina, it has picked up acclaim along the way, not only bagging the aforementioned Michelin Star at Frith Street (now Dean Street), but also being named Best New London Restaurant at the London Evening Standard and Taste of London Festival and National Restaurant of the Year for Adelaide Street location.
And so this brings us neatly to Barrafina's classic tortilla recipe below – a menu mainstay for a reason. It's a dish of pure rapture with an oozing yolky centre, perfectly golden exterior and deeply savoury flavour. If you've eaten the tortilla at Barrafina, the prospect of recreating such culinary sorcery may feel intimidating, but rest assured, it's easier than it seems. The trick is good quality eggs and potatoes, a mandolin and a little patience.