Gourmet fast food? Spanish wine list? Go tapas.
Where? 54 Frith Street, London W1 (020 7813 8016, www.barrafina.co.uk)
Mood? Cosy casual. Barrafina is the new tapas bar from the team behind Fino, a swanky Spanish restaurant in Fitzrovia. Although there are a mere 23 stools clustered around a marble-topped counter, clever use of mirrors makes the place look larger than it is, while black-and-white photos of Spain line the walls.
Why go? Friendly staff explain what all the Spanish ingredients are, and speedy service means that Barrafina is great for a working lunch or a quick bite before the cinema.
To eat? Unlike in Spain, where leaden bricks of cold tortilla line the bar, all the food here is cooked to order. One minute your prawns are sitting on ice, the next a bowl of garlic-heavy gambas al ajillo (£7.50) appears in front of you. Other unmissable dishes include the crisp ham croquetas (£3.50), butter-soft lamb cutlets (£6.50), and a –platter of top-notch cold meats (£7.50) to nibble on as appetisers.
To drink? The short, all-Spanish wine list proves that fortified wine isn’t just for your auntie. Star with a bone-dry glass of Fino (£5.20) while you decide what to eat; move on to a fuller-flavoured Amontillado (£3.90) with your tapas; and finish with a sweet Pedro Ximenez (£3.75) to partner a chocolate tart (£4.50).
Drawbacks? Gourmet fast food is a great idea but it doesn’t come cheap: turn up with an appetite and you won’t get much change from £40. And the no-bookings policy means you may have to queue for a seat.