Before its reincarnation as a dining hot spot moments from one of the most famous markets in the world, the formerly industrial railway viaducts of Borough Yards were “damp, dark and disconnected from Borough”, according to James Hart, co-founder of the eponymous Harts Group, which counts the Barrafina tapas bars, Soho classic Quo Vadis, and the El Pastor taquerias among its number.
The area has since been reimagined as a modern dining and retail hub, and with the arrival of Harts and their trifecta of restaurants – a spacious new Barrafina, the sherry specialist Bar Daskal, and the second site of the popular Parrillan – a genuine destination for culinary pleasure seekers.
Parrillan, in particular, is anticipated as the jewel in the crown not just within the group’s arrival at the Yards, but of the entire development itself. With an original location in Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross, this second restaurant is a major new arrival to Borough Market and its surrounds. Little expense has been spared. Boasting a sleek, well-appointed interior, a cosy outdoor terrace naturally sheltered by the arches of an aqueduct, and some of the finest Spanish cooking this side of Barcelona, the restaurant makes a statement not just of itself, but of the entire group’s ambitions.
With that, here’s everything you need to know about one of the summer’s major new restaurant openings.
While the original Parrillan in Kings Cross was primarily an outdoor experience, Parrillan Borough Yards shifts the action indoors.
According to restaurateur and Harts Group co-founder James Hart, who founded the group with his brother Sam and friend Crispin Somerville, the goal of Parrillan as an experience was always to create a restaurant that delivered dishes championing the finest Spanish ingredients, grilled over wood or charcoal. It had been a vision for the original Parillan at Coal Drops Yard but one they were only partially able to deliver on due to council restrictions on extract and planning.
That idea has finally been realised at the new Parrillan Borough Yards, where a more conventional table service set up is in play, with almost all the dishes being brought out to guests after being prepared over open fire – a departure from the ‘para picar’ bespoke tabletop grills that the Coal Drops Yard site became known for.
Angel Zapata Martin, who has overseen food offerings across the Barrafina and Parrillan group (retaining the former’s Michelin star at Dean Street in the process), returns in his executive role of Harts Group’s Chef Director, while chef Luis Lucero (formerly Sous Chef at Barrafina Dean Street) takes the reins as Borough Yards’ Head Chef. Meanwhile, Martina Csabayova will run front of house at the restaurant.
The design of the restaurant itself was a collaboration between the Harts team (as well as James Hart himself) and award-winning design firm Superfutures, who created Parrillan’s rustic-luxe internal architecture. “The design for Parrillan inside started from the aspiration to deliver something engaging, homely and comforting,” Hart says. So, the restaurant’s open kitchen was designed around a home-style centre island, allowing chefs to stand and both sides and engage with guests.
Hart says that piquing guests’ senses was key, noting that he wanted every sensory element accentuated to allow diners to feel like they were being invited into the owner’s own home: everything from the distinct aroma of smoke as ingredients hit the fire and the crackling of charcoal embers, to the flickering glow of flames and textures of the dining room’s soft leathers and clay and cement walls.
As he notes: “The wood fired grill, oven and stove should be an atmospheric backdrop to your evening, but not get in the way of what’s most important, which is the other people at your table and the conversations they want to share.”
For those who loved the original terrace, relax – the new restaurant still has one of the best outdoor spaces in London (and the bespoke grills are back)
While the restaurant’s dining room was created to feel homely and inviting, its outdoor terrace feels like stepping out into said host’s garden. Guests seeking respite from Borough Market’s crowds are mere seconds away from relaxing in plush chairs on the restaurant’s spacious terrace, sheltered beneath Victorian-era brick arches. Southwark Cathedral hovers in the distance, while cold glasses of Albarino and spritz land on tables within minutes.
“The design for Parrillan’s terrace used the restaurant in Coal Drops Yard as inspiration, but [we] adapted it to work beneath the arches at Borough Yards,” Harts says. The space needed to be flexible enough to rearrange depending on the light and aspect, so light wood tabletops have replaced weighty marble, while magical heated cushions have been installed on each chair to combat the shadier position – a huge asset for London’s colder months.
The tabletop grills that were a mainstay at the original Coal Drops Yard restaurant shine in this outdoor setting, but instead of being the dominant format, Zapata Martin and his team have reimagined them as a ‘hero’ dish amongst several larger offerings on the menu.
“We did also want to keep a ‘parrilla’ option too, for the outside terrace,” he says. “Partly as a nod to Coal Drops Yard, and partly because it’s great fun.” The opening menu sees a selection of Iberico pork cuts feature, and as part of the wider menu, adds an additional social and interactive layer to a meal here.
To reflect the shift indoors, the Spanish-leaning cuisine adopts a more conventional approach – but with live fire cooking, courtesy of three bespoke wood-burning ovens
With the shift in service style at the new Parrillan Borough Yards, Zapata Martin was allowed greater freedom to use his own imagination to come up with a novel menu. As James Hart puts it, his story at Harts Group “started with taking the reins of an established Michelin starred restaurant, Barrafina,” but has progressed to developing a menu centred on fish and vegetable-led dishes built around his own experiences of wood fired cooking around Spain. “It was a less prescriptive framework for Angel to create a menu in,” he says.
Zapata Martin says that his approach to creating the overall menu was inspired by fire, and “traditional restaurants that focus on fire-cooking, ‘asadores’ and ‘masies’, or farms, often found in the north of Spain, Basque Country, and Catalunya.”
The chef has also revisited some classic dishes that he’s favoured in the past, now cooking them over fire to amplify each dish’s flavours. As he puts it, “some of these might be dishes I cook personally a lot, or dishes that have been very popular on our specials boards across the Barrafinas.”
The opening menu has plenty of notable offerings on it, from simple pleasures like AA-grade L’Escala anchovies and whipped Iberian Manteca on crisp sourdough, to more impressive plates like a whole John Dory cooked in a wood oven, or a showstopper of a dessert of an entire Catalan-style pineapple to share, cooked over fire and served with ice cream.
Central to the cooking process and menu are a trio of wood-fired grills that the Parrillan team spent countless hours researching on location around Spain before having Ox Grills, their UK-based grill designer and manufacturer, create specially for the restaurant.
There’s a greater emphasis on vegetable cookery, plus a beverage program with a focus on light and refreshing flavours
Alongside the shift towards wood-fired cooking and conventional service, the new restaurant was a chance for the restaurant’s Chef Director to lean into the vegetable dishes he adores.
“For Parrillan Borough Yards, I also wanted to introduce more hero-dish vegetarian options,” Zapata Martin says. “In doing so, I use a lot of seasonal ingredients, and so the dishes on the menu will slightly change with the seasons.”
“I’m very happy with the mushroom and leek tart and the arroz de primavera!” he beams. “It’s been received very well so far and is helping in one of our goals in making a bit of a buzz around vegetarian dishes.”
Drinks wise, you can expect traditional Spanish drinks with an emphasis on light and refreshing flavour profiles – perfect for enjoying on the terrace or pairing with grilled seafood and vegetables. There’s also a small cocktail list featuring a white sangria using the popular Hart Bros own Albariño, plus a classic rebujito blending Manzanilla sherry with lime sherbert and mint, and a Spanish spritz made with El Bandarra Al Fresco, the popular Catalunya aperitif.
The restaurant makes a statement about the future of Harts Group overall
All told, the restaurant, plus its equally impressive new stablemates at Borough Yards, are an impressive proposition, and offer some insight into the Harts Group’s expanded reach and goals.
Along with the creation of fulfilling the original vision for Parrillan as a live fire-centric Spanish restaurant par excellence, the owners’ goal for the restaurant was to evolve the group’s passion for making outdoor spaces in the UK a pleasure to dine in year-round, as well as to continue the group’s move back into table service Spanish restaurants. “This was designed to complement Barrafina’s counter-centric dining and Bar Daskal’s vertical drinking vibe,” James Hart says.
“Our overall vision for Borough Yards was a site with three distinct offers that complement each other and the neighbourhood,” he explains. “Barrafina represents Harts Group present tense. Bar Daskal tells the back story of Harts Group past tense, and in many ways Parrillan is the future.”