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Tap, Tap, Tapping Away

As more and more restaurateurs seek that magic formula – the one that allows them to succeed however dire the economic climate becomes – more and more of them are turning to tapas. There’s French tapas at the magnificent Terroirs tucked away beside Trafalgar Square; there’s Italian tapas at the equally fine Boca di Lupo on Archer Street. Small plates and plenty of them seems to be something of a watchword. And then there are the Spanish tapas bars which come complete with a dose of righteous indignation and murmurings about plagiarism. Barrica opened before Christmas 2009 next door to the Salt Yard (the Yard must feel like an old-timer having been around for three or four years) and is a Spanish tapas bar, but hang on, what is a tapas bar? The Spanish have no monopoly on the small plate style, in fact in Spain tapas bars are subtly different to their London cousins, there you cruise into a tapas bar, have a drink, a couple of tapas and then move on to another venue for another dish. So and so’s is best for fish. The jamon may be the draw at another establishment. The Spanish omelette at a third. In London diners wandering in for a single dish would pretty soon have tapas bar owners tearing their hair out in clumps, such a strategy would leave too little time to successfully wring out each punter’s wallet.
Barrica has a confusing menu, awash with time zones… until you work out that the main kitchen shuts at 3.30pm and re-opens at 6.30pm denying the customers the more complicated dishes outside those hours. Simpler dishes like pimientos de Padrón; jamon Iberica Bellota; Boquerones; and pan con tomate run all day. Pricewise Barrica is a middling sort of place, most dishes cluster around the £3 mark (although the Iberica Bellota is £12). The dishes from the main kitchen are more ambitious both in terms of cooking and price.
Breaded pig’s trotter with caper berries (£5); clams with artichokes (£6.50); duck and pheasant stew served on flatbread £5.50; pork loin from the plancha £8. There is also a almost grasping bread policy. I bow to no one in my aversion to paying extra for bread, such staples should be built into the price for goodness sake. At Barrica they give you the first basket of bread and some olive oil free (good) but then there is the menu note Extra bread and oil will be charged at £1.50 per basket. What is going on? Are the hungry homeless of Goodge Street mobbing Barrica to fill themselves up on bread in such large numbers that the resto needs to charge for a refill? During the lunch service when I ate there the mainly young, and predominantly elegant, clientele didn’t seem to be biffing into the carbs. The food was good – accurately cooked squid; melty croquettas; a dish of deep fried sweetbreads that was perfect in every way. The drinks list carries a decent range of sherry, the cold beers are cold and the wine list not too mercilessly priced. This is one of those restaurants where you feel that the personnel are all trying hard, it seems that the only locals who will not be pleased to see the arrival of Barrica is their immediate neighbour Salt Yard, where the prices are staring to look a tad on the high side in comparison.

Charles Campion

Terroirs, 5 William IV Street, WC2 (020 7036 0660 www.terroirswinebar.com)
Bocca di Lupo 12 Archer Street, Off Rupert Street, W1 (020 7734 2223 www.boccadilupo.com)
Barrica, 62 Goodge Street, W1 (020 7436 9448 www.barrica.co.uk)
Salt Yard, 54 Goodge Street, W1 (020 7637 0657 www.saltyard.co.uk)

Charles Campion - Monday 29th March 2010

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