Funnily enough, with one glance at the Barbecoa butchery, I tripled my expectations for this new British-meet-American venture by Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang. As I walked in and greeted by the eager receptionist and the chatty, helpful bartender and in knowing that the restaurant is fully booked, I felt there should be something special after my afternoon ham binge at Fernandez and Wells.
And there was! Adam Perry Lang was cooking in the kitchen. He had quite a bit of devotees here really being constantly greeted and as well greeting diners (he knew) in the dining room. Or, is this just an American thing? Between a hot chef and a hot grill, I suppose I’d prefer lingering my eyes on the latter. Lang’s theatrical display of barbecue was mouth-watering. My eyes popped looking at the grilled chicken stuffed with beer can, which looked a bit like buggery but the heat from the can would cook every atom of the chicken to perfection!
Seated. The view, as anticipated, was stunning; the dining room sleek. The towering wine rack was the centre masterpiece, the trophy, perhaps, of City workers who could afford these luxuries in such a venue. “City” was, indeed, how I would describe Barbecoa. The vibe–as I went on Saturday evening–was a corporate canteen at its best. The diners appeared corporate, yet in their casual wear. One of the very few times I felt out of place in a restaurant of this calibre. And, I felt obliged to say this, if you were after a romantic treat with a brilliant view, you might as well stray from Barbecoa and try Swan at the Globe instead. The comfy sofa seats at Barbecoa were only there to cater groups of more than five and there were not many tables for two in the dining room.
The menu, as I said on my previous teaser blog, was for meat lovers, though there were hardly any rare cut or meat. Think fillet steak, burger, pork chop and lamb. The cooking was commercial and simple–barbecue as the name suggested. We had juicy olives to start, served on a bed of ice. Flavour-wise, they were rather smoky, nicely marinated and meaty.
We asked for two starters to share. The first was Crispy Pig’s Cheek, Autumn Piccalilli, Lamb’s Lettuce Salad. Tender pig’s cheek was made into a burger shape and pan-fried to a delightful crispness. It was a good dish well complimented by the not-so-pungent Piccalilli. The other starter of Baby Back Ribs with Apple Salad got mixed reviews from us. First, the dish arrived a bit cold. I must add the accompanying bowl of water to wash our fingers was actually warmer! I felt the rib smelt a bit too burnt; my other bib described it as adequately smoky. The meat itself was nicely cooked, still beautifully pink inside, and the sticky sweet barbecue sauce got me licking fingers. The “wow” factor of this dish was the salad of Apple, Radish, Chilli, Coriander and Mint, which I found refreshing and with a punch of chilli contrasting the sweet rib very well. That said, it was not practical. I used my fingers for the rib but I wouldn’t be using my greasy fingers to sweep up the salad, nor would I want to use them to lube up my knife and fork. So, we struggled a bit. Never mind.
Yes, I knew the pictures didn’t look great. The lighting was really bad in the restaurant. I thought they intentionally dimmed the light to aggrandise the view of St Paul’s. The view was, more or less, better than the dishes.
As for the main courses, we opted for Double Thick Pork Chop, Pear, Sage, Rocket and Apricot and Fillet Steak, Bone Marrow, Parsley, Tarragon and Shallot Salad. The pork chop was top-notch–high quality succulent pork grilled to please the carnivorous. It was incredibly tender, packed with flavours; the garnish added sweetness to the meat. Really, really top-notch!
My fillet steak, however, was overcooked. I specifically asked for a medium-rare but the piece turned out to be almost medium well. The outside was too tough, too charcoalled for my liking. The grilled bone marrow was separately served. It was the downfall of the dish really–way too deconstructed. Generally, the combo of steak and bone marrow could work miracles because bone marrow added fat, which was what a fillet steak usually lacked. The one at Heston’s pub The Hind’s Head was amazing because the steak was almost infused with bone marrow. This one at Barbecoa was a timid, badly thought out attempt, leaving too much DIY work–AKA mixing the ingredients up–to the diners. I also felt it was on the verge of becoming two different dishes and wish there was some sort of jus to bind the dish together. But, at the end of the day, as I was chided by my other bib, this wasn’t a fine dining experience. It’s a barbecue for Christ’s sake and I should be grateful enough to have bone marrow on the plate!! Boo …
My expectations seemed to have been failed with the dishes, and before moving onto desserts, I should probably warn anybody going to Barbecoa that the portion was quite large, and even though the cheesy mash was nice, you might not need any side dishes.
Desserts! They were really, really good. My Chocolate Nemesis, subtitled “Respect to the River Cafe,” was decadent, intensely rich and smooth in texture. My other bib went for Vin Santo Rose Cake with Candied Vanilla Lemons, Creme Fraiche and Crystallised Rose Petals. The cake itself had a pleasant touch of alcohol in, adequately moist in texture, whilst the rose petal gave an extra burst of aroma. The candied lemon was vile, a catastrophic collision of bitterness and diabetically sweet candy. The texture was also just .. ewww
At the end of the meal, it was split receptions between me and my other bib. He said he saw potential and would to return and try more dishes. Myself, I wouldn’t be bothered, considering that our bill, with a 25% introductory discount, came to just above £100. I suppose if you want to go to Barbecoa for the sake of Jamie Oliver, you might as well go to Jamie’s Italian.
My head rating says, “6 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “6 out of 10″.
20 New Change Passage
Tel. 020 3005 8555