2 days ago
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
As a vegetarian, tapas can be a bit problematic; what with all those small plates the price can soon add up and in the past I’ve ended up paying well over the odds considering I’ve only tasted maybe a quarter of dishes ordered. But food is a social thing as much as anything, the act of sharing a meal is a pleasurable one, and atmosphere, wine, company and conversation count for (almost) as much as what’s on your plate, so I’ve never minded that much. That said, when my housemate suggested Spanish food on a sunny Monday evening, I did try and steer her towards a place that seemed to offer a good selection of non-meaty dishes.
Barrica is one of several Spanish restaurants in the Fitzrovia/Soho area, only a couple of doors down from Salt Yard. The space itself is warm and attractive with buttercup yellow walls, chequerboard floors, the obligatory dangling hams and an expanse of dark wooden cabinets housing wine bottles. I was a little late and my housemate had already kicked things off with a glass of sweet-ish, amber coloured manzanilla, which she, after some coaxing, allowed me to try as we squinted at the specials board.
We chose a selection of dishes. The Catalan staple, escalavida, was very nice indeed, a triptych of smoky char-grilled aubergine, pepper and red onion. A plate of dark, garlicky grilled mushrooms came dotted with nuggets of queso fresco; of the available cheeses we opted for the villarejo, a nutty, hard cheese with rosemary in the rind, served with a miniature blob of membrillo.
My housemate, no vegetarian she, also went for the charcoal grilled chorizo, which hit her happy spot - she sopped up every last dot of orange, chorizo-infused oil with bread.
She also chose two dishes from the specials board: white beans and tuna and some anchovy toasts. The latter was a clear favourite, the bread rubbed with garlic and tomato and topped with pieces of queso fresco and a single silver sliver of anchovy. The white bean dish was fine, herby, (I stole some of the beans) but not overly memorable.
A dish of warm beetroot ribboned with spinach was far more interesting. A vibrant amethyst colour and dotted with flaked almonds, it was robust and creamy if perhaps a little underseasoned.
Oh and there were patatas bravas too, because there’s always room for fried potatoes. These were, again, OK, not too exciting; the sauce was a tad gloopy and we left the blob of aioli alone. It was the only thing that didn’t get eaten.
For dessert we ordered the chocolate sorbet with turron. What we received did not bear much resemblance to a sorbet. In fact it looked more like the chocolate pot that was also listed on the dessert menu. We decided to keep it, rather than cause a fuss, and were glad we did as it was nice and fudgey, if lacking that intense chocolate hit that the words ‘chocolate pot’ usually promise. That little worm of cinnamon dusted donut was rather over-sugared and unnecessary.
The wine list is divided into sections with subheadings like ‘well structured, refined, yet complex’ or ‘young, clean and fruit forward’. I suspect some people will find this irritating but it’s helpful to those who don’t mid a bit of hand-holding when it comes to wine. We went for one from the latter section, a bottle of Nudo Monastrell, as we (or at least I) were going to be eating some of the lighter dishes. It was bright, bouncy, did indeed taste young, and went well with our meal.
Apart from a rather chilly reception on entering, service was friendly and reasonably efficient with the exception of the dessert mix up. Our waiter also had to deal with a table of four rather obnoxious suited types who seemed determined to outdo each other, ordering dish after dish after dish and letting no sentence pass without an expletive.
Our bill came to £33 each, which included service and a tiny but slightly cheeky charge for second helpings of not very exciting bread. All things considered we really enjoyed our meal and I certainly appreciated the variety of vegetable dishes available.
Barrica, 62 Goodge Street, London W1T 4NE 020 7436 9448