Once again on Friday night we ended up at Barrafina. This is a Spanish tapas bar, and it’s literally that: there is an L-shaped bar that sits around 24 people on bar stools and that’s all the seating in the place. Given the small size of it, it’s remarkable they can prepare food and seat that many people anyway. There is also a counter with just enough room running along the side of the bar for the queue of people waiting as much as 40 minutes to be seated to be able to order drinks and a couple of tapas to appease their hunger.

And the long wait is perfectly justified. Barrafina specialises at preparing simple tapas very very well. There are a lot of things grilled or cooked with olive oil, garlic and lemon, thus bringing out all the flavour of the fresh ingredients without any extra fanfare and pretence.

Food is prepared in front of the customers, just behind the bar. You can observe the cooks grilling fish, shellfish or meat, slicing Iberian ham off the huge leg resting just behind the counter, frying croquettes and tortillas and the simple recipe is quite obvious: cook, season simply (salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon - two or three of these), serve. There is also always a large selection of specials, most of which are fish and shellfish resting on ice at arms length and grilled on the spot (someone’s lobster was killed right in front of us).

On yesterday’s visit we enjoyed patatas bravas, pimientos de padron (green grilled peppers), bread spread with garlic and tomato and grilled lamb chops, which are amongst our regular choices and excellent as usual. We opted for a ham and spinach tortilla omelette which was perfectly cooked, some (fairly rare) grilled octopus seasoned with paprika and very tasty, and finished with a grilled piece of rib-eye topped with red peppers and melted cheese, which was amazing. There was just enough room to share a (thankfully) light crema catalana at the end. Oh, and the cava never misses.

Apart from the amazing food, it’s the experience that makes the place very worthwhile. Observing the food being prepared and ordering whatever looks good, a couple of dishes at a time, having the seafood in front of you to choose from, and the friendly and informal service, combine to give an authentic and pleasurable atmosphere.

Be warned, the place doesn’t take bookings, so expect a big queue (unless you go very early or very late). Also they do not accept groups of more than 4, as the place is so tiny, and even that would be a stretch as you’d be sitting side by side. It’s rather an ideal place for two looking for a fun and informal dinner out.

All in all, this is by far my favourite Spanish restaurant in London and as authentic as it could possibly be (as much as that’s worth coming from a non-Spaniard). As long as you’re prepared for the queue and the slightly cramped conditions of eating at the bar, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.