On the table: Parrillan
Author: Will Heslop
Time was, if you were going for a night out in the area just north of King’s Cross, that probably meant Egg, a nightclub with a 24-hour licence. (‘Course you’ve been to Egg, but you’d forgotten its name – and possibly your own – the following day. It’s that kind of club.) Now, however, there are many more reasons to head this way in search of fun and refreshment, thanks to the brilliant, long-overdue renovation of Granary Square and the adjoining Coal Drops Yard.
Coal Drops was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, whose work includes the cauldron lit during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. To call it a shopping centre is like calling Montrachet “a drink”: it’s a beautiful space because it offers exactly that, space. The shops and restaurants sit politely at the periphery of a large, luminous square, suggesting the primary reason to come here is to stroll or sit; to people watch or marvel at the architecture and, later, should you fancy a spot of shopping, fine, and why not stay for dinner?
Which brings me to Parrillan, the most inviting on an August evening of the handful of restaurants here, owing to its sun-kissed terrace and Baleiric vibe. Parrillan is a spin-off of Barrafina, the much-loved group of tapas restaurants whose fourth site is next door. Parrillan offers a different menu and a fresh concept: a miniature, charcoal-fired barbecue is delivered to each table just in advance of the main courses, which diners proceed to cook for themselves.
We began our meal by comparing two of the Cavas listed: the fresh, primary Pares Balta Brut, and the richer, more autolytic Llopart rosé, which paired well with a generous helping of Presa Iberica (cured pork from the top of the pig’s shoulder). Then came the parrilla (grill), and a selection of salsas – anchovy, Romesco, and green and spicy red mojos – to accompany the mains. First up, a deft and delicious, Japanese-influenced tuna “Shu-Toro” and an enormous, crimson Carabinero prawn. They met the grill with a satisfying sizzle as we ordered a couple of seafood-friendly whites from opposite ends of the peninsular: the house Albariño and a Fino from Bodegas César Florido.
As each dish lands, the waiting staff (young, energetic and mostly Spanish-speaking) advise how long it should cook for. Overseeing everything is Alex, the Aussie maître d’ who earnt his stripes at Il Lido, a rather fabulous Italian joint in Perth, Western Australia (which also comes highly recommended).
We moved from seafood to meat, specifically lamb’s kidneys and lamb entrecôte. Our side of choice was patatas panadera, potatoes thinly sliced and sautéed with onions and white wine. The entrecôte was tender and brilliantly complemented by the rich anchovy salsa, but the kidneys – a treat for me, typically reserved for my trips to Burgundy – will live even longer in the memory. These are dishes tailor-made for reds from Rioja or Ribera del Duero, of which the list includes numerous top examples. We opted for Macán Clásico 2013, a powerful yet elegant success story from a tricky vintage.
The wine list here is concise, but impeccably curated. But for Taittinger and a pair of temping Provence rosés, the contents is exclusively Spanish or Catalan, with Rafael Palacios’s As Sortes and Finca Dofí from big brother Alvaro among the highlights.
Our bellies almost full, but our bottle only half-empty, we lingered happily on the twilit terrace. A “here’s what you could have won” succession of fab-looking dishes we’d failed to order filed past us, but we were chuffed with our selection, and had enough room for the daily special dessert, mel i mató, a traditional, feather-light Catalan cheesecake with honey. A cake without icing, it was nonetheless the icing on the cake of an exceptionally enjoyable, relaxing meal at a restaurant guaranteed to make you chill while you grill.
What we drank:
- Cava Parés Baltà, Brut, Penedès, Spain
- 2016 Cava Llopart, Rosé Brut, Penedès, Spain
- Fino, Bodegas César Florido, Jerez, Spain
- 2015 Hart Bros Albariño, Angel Sequeiros, Rías Baixas, Spain
- 2013 Macán, Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild & Vega Sicilia, Rioja, Spain