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Mjolnir

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PostSubject: Restaurant Review   Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:47 am

Restaurant review

Name: Barbecoa
Location: 20 New Change Passage, EC1
Chefs: Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang
Cuisine: Meat heavy / BBQ

The first thing to say about Barbecoa is that Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang can certainly pick a spot for a restaurant. They have landed perhaps the best unit in the new One New Change shopping and restaurant complex which opened in the City of London towards the end of last year, and which looks across at the magnificence of St Paul’s cathedral just yards away. The challenge, especially for a TV chef who appears to draw both like and loath in equal measure, was to make the restaurant live up to the location.

First impressions of the decor are good. The restaurant is ultra-modern in keeping with the surroundings of the One New Change complex; a bar area at the front of the restaurant done in dark greys and dark wood, brass and copper lights hanging from the ceiling, staff dressed uniformly in black, woefully uncomfortable stools to perch on, its all there.

When we arrived at 6pm on a Friday night, the place was sufficiently occupied, but not packed. Two members of our party were running late, so we opted for a drink in the bar. Being a whisky fan, my eyes fell to that part of the bar lineup and I was very impressed by not only the “usual” malts and bourbons on display, but also the range of slightly more exotic options available. I was less impressed though by the prices. £7.50 for a shot of 10 year old Macallan, £18 for a shot of 18 year old Highland Park. Those are ludicrously high even for a restaurant. Barbecoa is not a place you’d choose to get drunk in.

Our table was booked for 6, and at 6:20 the Barbecoa staff were asking how long we expected our other 2 guests to be. In the end, at 6:25 we said we’d go to the table.

The decor in the main L shaped restaurant carried the modern feel on, but cleverly blended it with a traditional feel to the kitchen which instantly made the place feel more like a BBQ restaurant. Decked out in grey brick and polished brass, the front of the kitchen has large glass panels so that you can see the steaks being grilled on large charcoal grills, the wood burning stove where the fresh bread is baked, and the tandoors where naan bread and skewered meats were cooked. A pleasing BBQish smell is evident as you walk through, and I liked that very much.

More polished copper and brass hangs from the ceiling, and the walls are floor to ceiling glass on both sides. Tables on one side of the restaurant are traditional wooden tables and chairs, decked out in the normal white linen, but the side we were in was decked out in a series of booths. Grey slabs of marble make up tables set out for four or six, and wrapped around each are low and thickly padded leather benches. I was worried they seemed too low at first, cutting any sense of privacy, but the way they are shaped and laid out means I was genuinely unaware of other parties around us during the meal.

After ordering a few drinks, we begin the meal with pre-starters, to be shared amongst us. Green olives on ice (£4), Pork Scratchings with chipotle dipping sauce (£4) and the bread board (£4). All were extremely impressive. The bread board was a large plank of wood into which a huge wood skewer had been hammered, and four enormous lumps of bread had been pressed onto it; a french baguette, a wonderously dark brown bread made with treacle; a toasted ciabatta drizzled with olive oil, and a home made naan bread. All of them were fantastic. Next to the pork scratchings. I’ve never been a pork scratching fan and so wasn’t bothered about ordering these, but God I am glad we did. They were one of the best things I have ever eaten in any restaurant. Several inches long, fantastically crispy, and with just the most incredible smokey bacon flavour. The tangy chipotle sauce worked perfectly with them, and we all pretty much agreed we could have just sat there eating plates of them all night.

Just as we were tucking in, the last of our friends arrived, and we moved to starters. Pit smoked baby back ribs with coriander and chilli (£9) for me. Friends ordered the crab salad with raddichio, rocket, frisee, and ‘green goddess’ dressing (£12) and crispy pig cheeks with piccalilli, chives, and lamb lettuce salad (£Cool. My ribs were excellent. Very tender and with just the right amount of chilli to excite the taste buds. However, my friend said the crab salad was a little bland, and the friend who ordered the pig cheek didn’t expect the meat to be shredded and formed into a crispy sort of burger.

Onto mains now. One friend opted for a dish from the special menu of whole lemon sole with a caper butter, another for the Barbecoa burger served with Westcombe cheese, smoked bacon, sweet onions, and pickles (£16). A third friend went for the lamb skewers, served with wet polenta, girolles, marjoram, and gorgonzola (£16). However, those of us true to the nature of the restaurant opted for the 425g New York Strip Steak with pan roasted escarole, garlic, anchovy, and lemon (£32). Side dishes included chips cooked in duck fat, gratineed mash potatoes, and cannellini beans (£4 each). The friend who had ordered the lamb skewers thought the polenta too salty, but the rest of us pretty much raved about our dishes. My steak was a thing of beauty. Perfectly cooked, juicy and thick, and excellent in flavour. The pan roasted escarole was excellent, with the lemon in it especially giving a nice edge against the meaty steak. The fish looked excellently flaky, the burger was suitably tower like when it arrived on its wooden plank, and the duck fat chips were incredible.

Stuffed as we were by this point, some of us nonetheless ventured into dessert, opting for a chocolate nemesis cake (£9) which Oliver and Perry admit they stole from the River cafe. This flourless cake is incredibly rich and decadent, but provided a perfect way to end the meal. Restaurant staff were kind enough to decorate the plate with piped chocolate giving a happy birthday message to one of our party.

So, a couple of minor issues aside, the food scored exceptionally well for me, and the decor and location likewise. In fact, the location got even better as dusk turned to night and St Paul’s was lit in all its glory. It really has to be one of the best views in London.

Now, if you think this review has been pretty glowing, well it has, but there of course has to be a counterpoint (aside, perhaps, from the prices) and there is. If Barbecoa wants to really cement itself a key London restaurant, they need to work on the service, which currently is merely OK, when it needs to be excellent.

I found waiters leaning across tables while we were in mid conversation without saying excuse me, and tripping over explanations of the dishes. I also found their manner, and the manner of the front of house staff, to be efficient but never particular friendly. Maybe it was because it was a busy Friday night service (the place filled to capacity and more while we were in there) but that really isn’t an excuse. However, the one thing that particularly soured the experience was when I ordered my steak. Not being an anchovy fan, I asked if I could have it without the anchovies and received the reply “No, not really.” I can’t see why not - its a grilled steak with some pan cooked brassica, it really shouldn’t have been a problem to just cook either without adding one element of the flavour. However, the waiter did go on to say it was a very light flavour and that there was no real anchovy taste, merely a hint of the salt. In the end, he was right and it tasted fabulous, but I would have expected them firstly to be able to do it without, but also to have been more friendly in the tone.

In the final summing up, I really enjoyed Barbecoa. The restaurant itself is superb, and the food I had I really enjoyed very much. Its by no means a cheap evening, especially if you raid the bar menu, but its absolutely worth it once in a while. So, final ratings

Restaurant: * * * * * (Great decor, fantastic location)
Food: * * * * (Excellent for the most part, friends had a couple of issues)
Drink: * * * 1/2 (Excellent range, but prices are high)
Service: * * * (Efficient, but not necessarily friendly)

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Mjolnir

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PostSubject: Re: Restaurant Review   Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:59 am

So, no-one's tempted to pop across for a quick steak then?

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lonewolfshanehunt

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PostSubject: Re: Restaurant Review   Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:59 am

Bit far for me to travel Wink
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Faulerro

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PostSubject: Re: Restaurant Review   Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:04 am

I don't think I could ever afford something like that. :p It does sound really nice, though.
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Julius Seizure

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PostSubject: Re: Restaurant Review   Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:16 am

I'd go there, sounds great. Problem is, most of my friends don't have that kind of money at their disposal, and I don't think I'd go in there alone. That's just sad. Razz

It does sound brilliant though. Despite my yobbish tendencies I am quite a fan of fine dining
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Mjolnir

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PostSubject: Re: Restaurant Review   Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:52 am

I thought fine dining for you was emptying your KFC containers onto a plate? Very Happy

I'm already eyeing up my next couple of places to try. Gordon Ramsay opens his new brasserie restaurant place right opposite Barbecoa in a few weeks, so I might give that a go, and I have been looking into some fantastic sounding gastro pubs in the Cotswolds for when I am down there next month.

However, the place I am really keen to try is this one: http://www.dishoom.com Its London's first "Bombay Cafe", serving simple and relatively cheap dishes right through from breakfast to late night. I really like the idea, especially the breakfast (though they need to add kedgeree to make it perfect).

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