I got a call last week from my favourite person asking if I was free for dinner. I was not but, for her, I absolutely was.
Mum had just finished a networking event in the City and so somewhere nearby was the obvious choice for us both.
Barbecoa fitted the bill perfectly.
One of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, it prides itself on sourcing the best meat in Britain and using traditional fire-based cooking techniques such as Texas pit smokers, tandoors, fire pits, robata grills and wood-fired ovens, to create stunning modern dishes.
It’s a rather glitzy restaurant with a modern-industrial feel to it; red leather banquettes and flecked marble table tops are balanced out by the high ceiling and use of stark greys & golds.
The main attraction, however, is of course the completely unobscured view of the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral.
The menu is an appealing affair, with a hotchpotch of dishes that one might not usually see side-by-side, such as tandoori naan coupled with pork scratchings, tuna & scallop ceviche alongside chicken wings, or smoked beer can chicken and south coast Dover sole.
All testament to the restaurant’s philosophy.
Mum & I fancied picking at a number of the starters, versus having a starter and main each.
With a carafe of ‘Altos Las Hormigas Malbec, 2013 Mendoza, Argentina’ (£26.00) (clearly she was paying), we were good to go.
We had ordered the Barbecoa taramasalata, radish, crackers (£5.00) (I’m going through a troublesome addiction with the stuff) from the ‘Nibbles’ section, which annoyingly arrived at the same time as our starters.
Nonetheless, the taramasalata was good, certainly not off any supermarket shelf (this I can guarantee), thick & flavoursome. Although for £5 I might have expected a little more. The charcoal-esque crackers, however, were an innovative and delicious scooping device.
We then tucked into the crab hush puppies, spiced squash salsa, chipotle mayo (£10.00).
This was the standout dish of our meal, as far as I was concerned, with the crab filling very generous and tasty, and the encasing crisp batter completely on point. The salsa really lifted the dish and the chipotle mayo was quite simply exquisite.
I ordered two more pots to eat with the rest of our food (I am the sauce monster after all).
Mum really enjoyed the beef carpaccio, pickled wild mushrooms, ticklemore cheese, Jerusalem artichoke (£13.00).
Although I found the dish pleasant enough, I found the beef to be rather bland and in need of dressing up in some way, although I did really like the pickled wild mushrooms.
Tuna & scallop ceviche, meat radish, miyagawa, chilli, coriander (£15.00) was mum’s favourite of our pickings.
She loves radishes but I personally thought them too overpowering a flavour paired with the delicate fish; again, for me, the plate as a whole was missing something.
Much better, in my opinion, were the tandoori wild prawns, lime pickle yoghurt, garlic, crisps, birch smoke (£13.00), which were cooked to perfection and had a delicious smokiness to them, which was well-balanced by the fresh citrusy yoghurt.
I just wished there had been more.
With some of our starter choices on the lighter side of life, we decided to order just one more dish to fill us up to the top, opting for the crispy calamari, smoked red pepper & chilli, romesco, lime (£11.00).
Decent, but strange. More over-sized ‘crispy squid’ than what I associate with ‘calamari’, but well-cooked, although in need of a zestier & runnier dipping sauce than the smoked red pepper ‘paste’.
Overall, between the two of us, some truly loved dishes, but some not so loved at all.
I appreciate that Barbecoa’s shining glory might be its mains, but I think we sampled enough varying dishes to get a good sense of its standard of cooking, which was a bit hit & miss.
At those prices, I think Barbecoa needs to raise its game, as the view shouldn’t be the main allure for one of Britain’s most talented & successful chef’s restaurants.