I LOVE The Palomar, so when I read that they had opened The Barbary, a new restaurant in Covent Garden it instantaneously jumped to the top of my list of must try restaurants. They don’t take reservations and all 20 or so seats are on the counter, around the kitchen. At Palomar, the counter seats are the place to be so why not have an all counter restaurant.
I went for a late lunch with my friend Mia, hoping we would be able to avoid the massive lines and it worked perfectly. We met at 1:45pm and even had a choice of a few seats.
The staff are super friendly and excited and the menu mouth-watering. I wish I could go in a slightly larger group to try everything but it just won’t work with the seating – I will just have to go again and again (Mia said she volunteers to devour the whole menu with me) until I have tested all of the dishes.
What we ate:
Kohlrabi salad: we ordered this because it was a hot summer day (yes, they do happen sometimes in London!) and we needed one cold light dish. The large batons of crispy kohlrabi were tossed in lightly creamy dressing, topped with crunchy almond slices, peppery rocket and perfectly cooked peas. Not mind-blowing but we loved the crunch and lightness.
Bagel: My friend KS had told me this was a must order dish. I have never been a massive bagel aficionado, but that was until I tried this one. I usually find them too dense and heavy but this massive bagel ring (could be a necklace) was warm and perfectly oily and scrumptious and completely covered in crunchy white sesame seeds. We fought for the last piece, to mop up the sauces on the plate or to clean the remaining drops of Baba Ghanoush.
Baba Ghanoush: with this dish I am not an aubergine liker, and if all aubergine could taste like this, an aubergine lover. The odd looking vegetable had been charred and turned into a perfect slightly chunky paste that was interesting, addictive and perfect with the bagel.
Octopus Mashawsha: no wonder the tentacles were braised for 4 hours in orange, bay leaf and herbs to soften it and flavour them. They were the tenderest and juicy octopus “arms” recently encountered and after braising, they were then grilled to make the outsides beautifully and perfectly charred. They probably didn’t need anything else so the chickpeas, ambenah (yoghurt and labaneh combo) and arisa oil were a bonus and extremely interesting, slightly spicy and fantastic. A must order!
Cauliflower Jaffa Style: I have to admit that despite my love of cauliflower I hesitated over ordering this dish as I don’t love deep fried things, but the waitress said it was amazing and that it wasn’t greasy. She was spot on. Deep fried cauliflower with garlic, chilli, parsley, lemon, tahini and grated tomato.
Monkfish Chermoula: firm and meaty monkfish steak in a Tunisian marinade of arisa, garlic, and spices. Grilled and served with labenah and cured lemon sauce and roasted fennel. This was the only dish on the menu I didn’t love as I found the marinade too oily and the dish once again proved that I just don’t love monkfish and prefer a fish with actual fish texture versus meaty and dense.
Hashcake: a buttery, oatmeal, pistachio and brown sugar cake served with unsweetened whipped cream. The chef emphasised the butter when he described it, but also rightfully so said it was totally worth it. Totally indulgent and delicious and addictive – as the name would indicate!
Strawberry Ice Cream: made on the premises and topped with honey, olive oil, salt and flaked almonds. I never order strawberry ice cream because it reminds me of bad Neapolitan ice cream that I had while growing up. This has replaced those childhood memories by what a good strawberry ice cream is meant to be!
In sum: as we were eating, we were already craving having some of the dishes again, and looking at the menu to see what else we would order. To me that is the sign of an excellent meal – instant cravings for MORE! Can’t wait to be back at The Barbary! And I think I like it even better than The Palomar, which seems impossible as I LOVE Palomar, but somehow the dishes had fewer ingredients at The Barbary so each ingredient was able to stand-out more.
16 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP
No Phone Number as they don’t take reservations