Address: Ground Floor, 2 Bligh Street Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9231 2551
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Ever since I saw Excuse Me Waiter’s review of Barrafina tapas, I’ve been wanting to check the place out. I’d been quite busy reviewing a number of other restaurants since I saw the post but finally got the chance to check it out with MDS last week.
The atmosphere on this Friday night was quite lively and fun. The restaurant wasn’t even close to full (there were plenty of empty seats- see the photo, below), but there were more than enough people to provide a good atmosphere.
The bar area
Inside seating area
We went to the counter and were shown to a small table in the corner. The waitress was friendly and helpful and soon brought out the set menu and a wine list for us to look at. We both decided to have a lemon lime bitters to go with our tapas.
Lemon lime & bitters, $4.00
After quite a bit of umming and ahhing, and going over which dishes we liked on each menu, we decided on Set Menu 2.
For the rest of the night, service was a little disjointed. First we were served the wrong first two courses – dishes from Set Menu 1 instead of Set Menu 2. They told us we could keep the dishes but I was a little annoyed because they weren’t the dishes we had originally ordered. Then a different waitress brought out food which we had already tried. It seems that the system of food service at Barrafina is not quite organised and orders seem to get stuffed up quite easily. That said, the staff are quite friendly and pleasant.
First out we were served a Tomato Bruschetta and Ham & Manchego Cheese Croquettes, although we were supposed to get Marinated Olives and Cured Ham, as per menu 2. Nonetheless the bruschetta was served on crunchy wheat baguette slices and was full of basil, fresh tomato and garlic flavours. Although the tomato was a little dull in colour, the overall taste of this item was quite nice. It was a fresh way to start of the meal.
Pan con tomate, baguette rubbed with vine tomato, garlic and olive oil
The croquettes had a crunchy exterior, although not crunchy enough for my liking. They were served with a tiny smidge of tomato sauce and I could have done with more sauce on the plate to tone down the very creamy cheesey filling.
Jamon serrano and manchego croquetas, salsa tomate
Next up we were served Soft Shell Crab Sliders. The sliders were very well presented and looked really cute on the plate with the crab legs sticking out of them. The parts of the crab that were outside the bun were quite crunchy and nice, while the crab inside the bun- with the mayo and avocado, was soft and flaky. I love harissa mayo and there was plenty on this bun. The avocado mousse was also quite nice and added a creaminess to the slider. I demolished mine but MDS, who was starting to get a little full, ate about half of hers.
Soft shell crab sliders with avocado mousse and harissa mayo
Next we had Fried Calamari with Aioli and Lemon. There was a lot of calamari in this dish and we were a bit surprised, as we were both starting to get full. It was really crunchy and delicious though and the dusting of paprika on top looked really nice. I love lemon and aioli and so I enjoyed this dish with generous amounts of each, on top of my calamari rings. Very good portion sizes in this item and a great tasty dish overall.
Lightly floured calamares, aioli, lemon
Next we were served a Chorizo and Salsa dish. The presentation was a little messy with all the elements mixing into one another on the plate. I expected nice evenly-shaped pieces of round chorizo but we were served lumpy elongated bits which didn’t look very appetising. “Chorizo a la plancha” literally means “grilled sausage” and the flavours of this dish were quite delicious as the chorizo had a lovely smoky flavour. The “salsa romesco”, a sauce made with capsicum, ground almonds and olive oil, was was quite spicy and added a nice texture to the dish. The “pedro ximenez caramelised onions” are onions cooked in a sort of sherry wine. There weren’t very many onions in the dish, but the sauce which surrounded the salsa romesco and chorizo was quite sweet and tasty.
Chorizo a la plancha, salsa romesco, pedro ximenez caramelised onions
Next up were the Pork Ribs. At this point we were really full and didn’t know how much more we could eat. After one bite of these delicious ribs however, I was hooked and couldn’t stop! As ribs do not have a lot of meat on them, I ate about three. They were sticky, sweet, and had a delicious jammy flavour. I was surprised when I later found out that “membrillo” means “quince”, as I often eat quince paste with cheese and crackers, and hadn’t recognised the quince flavour on the ribs. Overall this was a really tasty item which would be great for large groups (but is definitely too messy for first dates!).
Pork ribs slow roasted in membrillo, sherry vinegar and rosemary
The Veal & Ricotta Meatballs were up next. They were served with some of the crusty wheat bread which we had with the bruschetta. We did not touch the bread though, as we were too full, and instead went straight for the meatballs and potatoes. The meatballs were well cooked and were not too dry. The sauce tasted a bit like a Sri Lankan curry sauce as it had a bit of a kick to it and contained a lot of tomato-ey sauce. Presentation was not great though, and I would have liked to see some fresh green herbs on top of the dish to liven it up a little.
Veal and ricotta meatballs, patatas and tomato frito
The last item was a Roast Pumpkin Salad. It was a light way to end an otherwise heavy meal. The pumpkin was soft and quite cold, and the sweetness of the pumpkin went well with the slightly tangy labneh. I didn’t really taste much of the coriander, and there weren’t many walnuts in the dish either. The beetroot leaves were alright but there was a lot of it on the plate for the amount of pumpkin and labneh.
Roasted pumpkin salad, house labneh, walnuts, coriander and beetroot leaves
Overall, we had a very enjoyable time there and the food was quite interesting and tasty. Some of the dishes were a little cold when served to us, and the service was not very prompt. However, the staff were friendly and generally the food was quite nice. This is a convenient spot in the heart of Sydney’s CBD which is great for dinner or drinks after work. Improvements to service and presentation would take it to the next level.
Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):
- Service- 5
- Food- 7
- Ambience- 6.5
- Value – 6.5