Heading the list of restaurants I really should have been to but haven’t is Barrafina, but a no booking policy and tales of epic queues reduce its appeal for those of us with a babysitter to get back to. Our compromise was Fino, Barrafina’s Charlotte Street sister restaurant which takes reservations, albeit with a two hour time limit. I was intrigued to visit, having read contrasting reviews from some time ago from An American in London and Tamarind and Thyme.
Charlotte Street was abuzz with the post-work crowd making the most of a balmy summer evening. Leaving the bustle behind, we descended into the restaurant where we found a lively atmosphere fitting for a group meal out or a first date alike. Our waitress was helpful with recommendations, though we were disappointed to find that at 8pm they had already run out of the monkfish special. There was also no red mullet; perhaps there had been an issue with the fish order that day.
Dishes came in twos, allowing us time to enjoy each one whilst it was still warm. We started with bread which was served with fantastically fruity olive oil (£2.00) and a mixed platter of cold meats (£12).
Ham croquettas (£3.60) arrived next, which were beautifully light and fluffy, and crisp on the outside.
Squid wrapped with pancetta in ink sauce (£12.80) delivered a mouthful of flavour, and the squid was perfectly cooked.
A black pudding tortilla was deliciously soft and oozy, the centre spilling out as we cut into it. Being of Scottish descent, I was excited at the prospect of black pudding, but disappointingly I couldn’t detect any trace of it.
The presa iberica with confit potatoes (£12.00) was tender and juicy, with a sumptuous and flavourful layer of fat, but the potatoes were oversalted.
We finished with the donuts (£6.50), which I had been looking forward to all day. What a disappointment! A plate of three tempting donuts arrived, which I bit into with great expectations, only to find them dry and stodgy. We really needed the vanilla ice cream to add some moisture. The santiago tart (£6.50) was by contrast light and nutty with Christmassy spices. Absolutely delicious.
Fino offers something a cut above the generic, oily dishes found in so many of London’s tapas restaurants. The dishes we had were creative and well executed, with only a few inconsistencies. There is a lively vibe, making Fino a great option for a special night out, albeit it at a price. Our meal came to £111 which included two glasses of champagne and three glasses wine.
Fino, 33 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR
Mummy friendly score: babysitter required, but marks for taking reservations!
Gastrodad score: 8/10