It’s official: I’m a glutton! Having consumed an inordinate amount of meat at Barbecoa, I find myself the following morning (albeit late morning) at my favourite café, Prufrock Coffee eating cake! Does this make me a bad person? I don’t think so, but just confirms that I have no willpower whatsoever where food is concerned.
Today is blog day; trying to catch up on all my foodie bits and bobs over my past week in London. Being so far behind with posts, I thought that blogging backwards would be a way forward. So let’s start with the pig out at Barbecoa.
There have been mixed reports about this Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang venture – all I can say is that my experience was one of sheer joy. OK it’s a celeb chef’s place, but frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn!
I decided to eat here with husband, BOGG (Big Old Grumpy Git) and a couple that we’ve known for some time but only see every now and again. My first thoughts for a meal was The Ivy, but after a quick tweet found that it was more ‘Fur coat, nae knickers’. I was stumped as to where to eat. Places suggested, like Hawksmoor, which I adore, and Goodman’s were booked.
A chance encounter with a floor map of the One New Change shopping mall right next to St Paul’s Cathedral, lead me to a butchers shop. I was impressed with the sides of beef, pork and lamb hanging in the chill rooms, the huge wooden butcher’s block and the knowledge of Jaime the Kiwi who was happily cutting up a lamb carcase. Meat was hung well (nearly said well hung) and the pork I took home to cook, was stunning. That was why dinner was going to be at Barbecoa; that was when I discovered the shop and restaurant were part of the JO/APL collaboration and if the meat was anything to go by, I wanted more!
Our booking was for 6.30 and they were helpful when I made the reservation, as the time originally offered was 5.30. We arrived early and were shown to our table with stunning views of St Paul’s. Comfy leather seating and marble tables with loads of elbow room was a relaxing space with huge windows giving us unimpeded views of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. The space is enormous and was filling up quickly as we took our time mulling over the meaty menu. Sorry vegetarians and vegans, this is no place for you.
We ordered a round of drinks and nibbles of bread and butter, giant green olives on ice and pork scratchings, all of which arrived swiftly. I would describe the stack of skewered bread but just see the picture. We could all feel our arteries clogging up as we eyed the scratching; all salty and crisp. But did we care? did we hell! Couldn’t fault anything so far.
I was doing a porky meal with crispy pig cheeks followed by belly. BOGG and Simon opted for the crispy calamari to start with pulled pork shoulder and spatchcocked baby chicken respectively. Lucy, a meat loving gal, had beef tartare followed by the belly like me. I felt I was the one that missed out regarding my starter. The cheeks were good, but by comparison, I felt the others got the better deal. The tartare was soft, succulent, and with the added crunch of the toasted focaccia, had us all in raptures. As for the squid … the beast was sliced but not the whole way through the body; it was golden; it was tender; it was sublime. I was more than a tad jealous I can tell you.
With the place buzzing, service was swift and we didn’t have to wait long for our mains. Lucy and I plunged into the belly pork as if we’d been starved for a week. The thin veneer of crackling was joyous; the apple sauce could only have been the right accompaniment for the meat, giving the dish balance. The belly itself was a beautifully cooked, the fat meltingly intertwined with the meat; we were very happy girlies.
Our men folk tucked into their mains with mumbled satisfaction. The pulled pork was smoky and slightly sweet, just the way it should be and Simon got possessive over his baby chicken, which I took as a good sign, even if he was mean about sharing.
We rubbed our bellies as we watched the sky darken and one of London’s architectural wonders turned into an iconic silhouette. We’d drunk three bottles of the cheapest wine (£18 each), which were very palatable and as the last dregs from the glasses were drained I ordered pudding with four spoons. This was the only disappointment of the whole meal. I ordered Vin Santo and rose cake. It was beautifully moist but tasted more of ginger than anything else. It was a good cake (and I know my cakes) but not what I was expecting. I should have gone for the rhubarb and jelly as a lighter alternative. There were ice creams too and I was given two small scoops of a Vin Santo ice along with a scoop of plum.
The staff were faultless, fun and charming. We spoke to Jacques, the general manager, on our way out. He spent time talking about the kitchen and the equipment, the staff and the food. Passionate he is and takes any complaints seriously, even the small ones we aired about ginger in the kale (not stated on the menu as an ingredient) and my pudding. He even knew of me, when I introduced myself and BOGG added also known as @BakersBunny!
Our bill including, drinks, wine, nibbles, starters, mains, sides, coffee and my pudding came to £211 inc service, which I think for the quality, quantity, service and views is pretty good value in the heart of the City!
© Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track, 2011