Restaurant Review: Barrafina, Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross

I’ve been meaning to go to Coal Drops Yard for ages … well since it opened in October 2018 and people started talking about it being a great foodie destination. So when good friends Annie & Jerry suggested meeting there to eat at Barrafina, I was delighted. At last, I was going to make it to Coal Drops Yard – and one of my favourite restaurants!

One of my excuses for not getting there before was the journey across London. But that was just me being lazy; it only took about 45 minutes to get from Twickenham to King’s Cross. Coal Drops Yard is a shopping and dining centre situated just behind King’s Cross Station in an area that once housed two Victorian coal drops sheds, built to receive coal from South Yorkshire, which was then transferred to narrowboats on nearby Regent’s Canal or horse-drawn carts at a time when coal was the only form of energy available for heating and lighting. The new development was designed by renowned architect Thomas Heatherwick. The cobbled streets and brick arches are home to a mix of independent shops and well-known brands, cafes, bars and restaurants. When I arrived soon after 6pm, I immediately saw an impressive complex; by the time we were heading home around 9.30pm, lit up brightly in the dark, it was a lively place buzzing with people talking in bars and restaurants and some live music. If I lived closer, I’d be there all the time!

My phone took me on a quiet 10-minute route from King’s Cross Station alongside railway lines and I have to say it felt like a rather dodgy area. In fact, just the kind of insalubrious area you imagine lurking behind a huge railway terminal. I was glad my son Jonathan was joining us and would thus be with me for the trip back. But then it turned out there was a quicker – a mere 7-minute walk – route, which Annie & Jerry showed us as we made our way home. However, the advantage of the first route was that I was brought in the back way and almost to Barrafina’s door. From the road, I turned up a path to cross a bridge over the canal where I could see narrowboats moored below and straight into the first floor of Coal Drops Yard, with Barrafina just to my left.

I was early and took a walk around to see what was there. There were some interesting shops and eateries, including Arabica, Dishoom, Gail’s, Lina Stores, Notes Coffee and many others. On the way out, Annie said Coal Office was great for Middle Eastern food, so that’s to look forward to for another visit. Many activities take place in the centre, from food markets, craft workshops, morning sound meditation, and even a Club Pétanque if you fancy a slice of France. Click here for more information.

We’d agreed to meet at 6.30 so I made my way back up to Barrafina and was shown into a room at the back. Most seating is at the counter, but we wanted a table and it’s certainly easier for four people to talk.

The room was attractive and west facing, so the early evening sun was shining brightly through to light it up.

Getting into a Spanish mood we ordered glasses of sherry to start. Our waitress was brilliant throughout our meal and really great at helping us choose sherry and wine and explaining foods. We had a dry Manzanilla ‘La Gitana’ to begin (100ml glass, £9). It was delicious.

Marcona Almonds (£4.8) and Pan con Tomate (£7 each portion – we had 2) were perfect accompaniments to the sherry.


We had some gorgeous Ham Croquetas (£8) and Buñuelos de Bacalao (salt cod fritters – £10.5) too but I seem to have missed taking photos of them. I was clearly having too much fun chatting!

We each chose a ‘main’ dish – to share so we got a taste of everything – and ordered some vegetables to go with them.

The Baby Gem, Anchovies & Pancetta (£12.5) was fantastic. How can you apparently dress lettuce so simply and it taste so good! The prawns cooked in oil, garlic and parsley (£21) were delicious too.


The Arroz Negro (rice cooked in squid ink – £25) was stunning. The taste, the texture, everything about it was really special. We ordered Patatas Bravisimas (£9) too.


The Lamb Pintxo Moruno (£17.8) were fabulous lamb kebabs. And the Chicken Thigh and Romesco (£18.8) was gorgeous, such tender chicken over a lovely Romesco sauce with chopped roasted hazelnuts on top.


We were on a bit of a high with all this amazing food and although already quite full, quickly persuaded ourselves that we should have a dessert. Jonathan and Jerry had the cheesecake – Tarta de Queso (£9). It was really, really good (Jonathan gave me a taste of his). Annie and I remembered the fabulous one we’d had a few years ago in San Sebastian and this Barrafina one was just a good. Which says a lot for it! Annie ordered the dessert of the day, a Lemon Pudding and I had Crema Catalana (£9.5). They were all excellent and a great way to end a wonderful meal.


The bill came to about £70 a head. Not cheap but in London terms, good value for such a special meal. We had eaten a lot and and drunk delicious sherry and wine. I’d been telling Jonathan about Barrafina for ages, how much I loved it, and he said it had lived up to my praise of it. I’d only been to the Adelaide Street branch before and love it so much have been reluctant to try others. Now I’m glad I have, for the Coal Drops Yard branch was just as good.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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