Walking home from a recital at St John's Smith Square in Westminster with 11pm fast approaching, we happened to cut up pedestrianised Adelaide Street off Charing Cross; home to Maggie Hambling's delightful 'Smoking Oscar' (Wilde) sculpture. Barrafina's bigger brother is a corner site with wraparound glass windows through which one can see pretty people lining the sinuous marble counter behind which an open kitchen bristles with energy and movement. With fifteen minutes to go before the kitchen took last orders, we took the last two available stools and we asked the Spanish firecracker behind the counter to choose four light small plates that would soak-up the acidic white wine invariably served after classical music recitals.
A Pan con Tomate achieved the perfect balance of brittle, garlic-infused toast and sumptuous, purée tomato drizzled with olive oil, salt and basil. When halved, the classic Tortilla offered up a creamy, viscous centre with a wobble as delightful as voluptuous burlesque dancer's curves. And yet there was no sense of urgency or 'late shift' ennui behind the counter. My glass of house white - a smooth, elegant drink - was topped-up with a wink and a smile. I do love a counter! I could have kissed our waiter when Arroz de Marisco was served: a velvety risotto soused with vino blanca within which fat, juicy muscles and squid bathed. An end-of-shift beer behind the counter calmed the storm and we were offered a slice of Milhojas that was a symphony of puff pastry, white chocolate and vanilla. Quite frankly, I would queue from Westminster Bridge for as satisfying a late night supper.
Where to eat ... Pre- and Post-Theatre
10 Adelaide Street WC2
Tel. 020 7440 1456
Tube: Charing Cross
Words (c) James Sherwood, pictures (c) Barrafina