> Chefs

Angel Zapata Martin

Angel’s appointment to Barrafina in spring 2017 was a perfect fit – the restaurants serve the exact same food the chef loves cooking and while he’s adding his own touches to the menu, it’s still very much business as usual. ‘When something has worked so well for ten years, it doesn’t make any sense to change it,’ he says, ‘but the specials board is where I get to really show off my style of cooking – it changes daily and I encourage all the chefs to get involved and contribute.’

Tapas, like many traditional European foods, is rooted in history, and Angel is committed to preserving the authenticity of the recipes at Barrafina. ‘Our tapas are either the same or very slightly different to what you’d find in Barcelona, which is getting so touristy now it’s becoming harder and harder to find authentic tapas,’ he explains. ‘I’ve seen patatas bravas served with mayonnaise and ketchup instead of bravas sauce and aioli! For example, normally in Spain you use a very specific tomato for pan con tomato, and simply cut it in half and rub it over the bread. Here, we grate the tomato and strain it to remove some of the water, before mixing the pulp with olive oil and spreading it on top of the bread to stop it getting soggy. We’re looking to be very traditional and authentic here, that’s the main point, so we never change the recipes too much.’

However, just because Angel’s dishes are either identical or very similar to the tapas served back in Spain, what makes Barrafina Adelaide Street (the other two restaurants are in Soho and Covent Garden) worthy of a Michelin star? Angel says it’s all down to the ingredients. ‘Our dishes might follow similar recipes to a traditional tapas bar in Spain, but we use world-class produce that you wouldn’t find in a typical restaurant. Some of these come from Spain – there are certain chillies, peppers and meats you can’t get anywhere else – but we also use lots of British products, particularly fish and fruit.’

When we talked to Angel he’d only been in his new job for a few months, but after the first week (‘there was so much paperwork’) he feels right at home. It might be a new chapter for the chef, but it looks like Barrafina will continue to be the best place to get authentic tapas in the UK under his watchful eye.

Three things you should know

Angel had only worked in London once before getting the job at Barrafina, as a private chef for the Saudi Arabian royal family.

Angel says London's food scene has become one of the best in the world, and now Spanish chefs look to the city for the latest trends.

Angel works between all three of the Barrafina restaurants in London, collaborating with the head chefs to ensure the menu is at its best.