Barrica is a tapas bar located in Soho, London, offering both traditional and innovative Spanish food.
I originally ended up at Barrica as the result of an excellent lunchtime deal via Groupon, offering 3 courses plus a glass of cava for just £19. The restaurant has excellent reviews online and has recently been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
The decor is very traditional for a tapas bar of this sort, with a large bar to your left as you enter and tables beyond this. The cava we received on arrival was cold, crispy and actually complemented everything I ate very well, as I mostly went for seafood.
The set menu offered a wide variety of choices, with about 5 or 6 different options for your starter and main course, and 4 for dessert. I was feeling adventurous and, as I have never tried black squid ink before, ordered squid ink rice with alioli to start. It was a really interesting tasting experience – the essence of seafood permeated the rice without any actually being in the dish. The alioli was the perfect accompaniment and packed a powerful garlicy punch. My dining companion opted for the chicken croquettes which, on arrival, I was quite jealous of as they looked so appetising and well-presented! I managed to haggle for a piece of one and the taste lived up to the appearance – an extremely crisp, breaded outside and succulent, tender pieces of chicken within, plus a lovely satisfying ooze of chicken fat/oil when you bit into it.
Main course next and I continued my seafood binge by ordering octopus leg, which had obviously been cooked very slowly for a long time, served on a bed of chickpeas and pickled beetroot. The octopus was gorgeous and had a magnificent, buttery texture that your knife just slid through – as well as some lovely little crispy bits on the outside. The beetroot and chickpeas – served cold – cut through the octopus perfectly and prevented the whole dish from seeming too rich. My companion, after much deliberation, decided on the Hake a la plancha, served with carrots and onions. This was again a really aesthetically pleasing dish, with the hake and criss-cross lashings of sauce being the star of the show. The fish (which I also blagged a taste of – doing well, aren’t I?) was perfectly cooked and kept it’s steaky texture whilst also being melt-in-the-mouth soft. The sauce did a good job of enhancing the delicate flavour of the fish, rather than overpowering it.
It’s worth saying here that it was incredibly challenging to settle on one main or starter to eat. Offerings also included Ibericon pork shoulder and prawns a la plancha. My octopus had a £3 supplement – understandable, I think, given it’s not a cheap ingredient (and I’ll never resent paying for something that tastes delicious).
I’m not really a dessert person if I’m honest, which is why when I saw goats cheese ice cream, thyme shortbread and fruit coole on the menu I was intrigued. I have never eaten goat’s cheese ice cream before but, having sampled some goats cheese churros I know that this usually savoury ingredient can absolutely shine in a sweet context.
I was not disappointed – in fact that’s a real understatement, because what arrived in front of me was quite possibly the best dessert I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. When judges on Great British Menu, Masterchef and the like talk about the balance of flavours I always fob it off as general food critic semantics, but this dessert demonstrated the power of being bold but balanced. The ice cream was sweet, but the undeniable tang of the goat cheese came through a treat. The smooth creamy texture of this was contrasted with the very crumbly, salty thyme shortbread – which was thin and had more of a dark brown colour than I expected (almost tweel-like). The coole was sharp and not too thick, so it nicely coated everything else in the dish and, when you combined all three of these elements, the result was a journey of flavours and textures in the mouth. It was just absolutely perfectly executed, unfussy but elegant and one day, when I’m feeling adventurous, I will definitely try to recreate it at home.
Was the service good? Yes. Was the food? Absolutely. And was it all-in-all good value for money? Definitely. When I am in London next, I will find an excuse to go back to this unpresuming tapas bar and taste more of what they have on offer. Barrica know what they do best, and I think there’ll be plenty more accolades and awards to follow their well-deserved Bib Gourmand.
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