One for the boys? Barbecoa Afternoon Tea:
The new Barbecoa on Picadilly is perfectly located for passing trade. A rather stunning window display of the afternoon tea was already attracting crowds and we felt privileged to have been offered the chance to sample it. It did look rather grand…
Inside, the tardis-like space of the restaurant extends over two floors into the basement, where there’s a raw bar and considerably more seating. Upstairs though, customers lounge on banquettes, looking at a stunning bar well stocked with booze, teas and coffees.
Jamie Oliver has taken the concept of afternoon tea and given it a good shaking. There is, of course, a classic offering with those egg and cress sandwiches, scones and pastries that we all expect. But there’s also the Barbecoa version, where the sandwiches are replaced with tapas-sized savouries and, refreshingly, there’s an excellent mix and match option. You can order a plate of savouries for £12, a croque barby (with smoked ham and coolea cheese in a London bloomer, with bacon ketchup), or indulge in a chocolate and caramel sundae. Or, whatever combination takes your fancy.
We’d gone along to sample the Barbecoa afternoon tea and were more than happy to start with a glass of champagne. Marks knocked off for not serving at the table though…it’s that kind of detail which makes a ‘proper’ afternoon tea special. We did love the tea service itself though – a kind of copper art-deco styling that I’ve never seen before and which looked particularly effective on the marble-topped tables. And, there’s a good selection of teas, coffees with Berry Bros house champagne.
The savouries plate comprised a crab bouche (which turned out to be a little crab flan), our favourite short rib croquette, a goat’s curd and honeyed almond wafer and a wagyu beef slider. No serious problems, though the beef slider was heavy on caramelised onions and we both thought it would be better suited to a brioche bun. And, the short rib croquette was fabulous – just as I remembered from Barbecoa St Pauls.
For some reason, Barbecoa likes to serve their afternoon tea ‘all at once’. Our server told us it was so we could take photos, but personally, since they gone to the effort of providing excellent freshly baked scones and warm savouries, I’d far rather service was staggered so that everything gets served at its best. In any case, the volume of food is just a little overwhelming, especially as I’d challenge anyone not to eat all the savouries and scones, they are all just too delicious. However, we asked if we could have the scones and pastries delivered once we’d finished the savouries and the team at Barbecoa was more than happy to oblige.
And, the scones definitely deserve a special mention. Getting them ‘right’ is a matter of kitchen management. They really do taste much, much better fresh from the oven. But some of the best afternoon tea venues don’t do that. Here our plate of warm, light and fluffy plain and fruit scones tasted just like the ones my mum made. The sort you’d try to eat before they’d cooled down enough and burn your mouth. Served with jam and clotted cream they were as good as scones get. We loved the lemon curd and rhubarb jam options but were less convinced by the peanut butter – perhaps that’s an acquired taste though?
The pastries were all delicious, though definitely not dainty. There was a large macaron, a chocolate brownie, carrot cake, lemon meringue, choux pastry, strawberry and pistachio flan, a canelle (french cinnamon) cake and an apricot pannacotta.
Of course, we both wanted everything, though thanks to an allergy I couldn’t try the really pretty strawberry and pistachio flan.
Some of the cakes were easy enough to cut in half and so we both got mouthfuls to try. But, when it came to the macaron and the chocolate brownie, I’m afraid we asked for extras, which were willingly supplied. Wouldn’t you?
I was particularly impressed by the canelle. I’ve tried these pretty cakes before and found them overly dry. This one was spot on, with a pleasantly sticky caramel shell and a soft doughy centre.
And who couldn’t fail to love the chocolate brownie which somehow manages to fuse that family favourite into a pushed-up fine dining version…
If I have any recommendation it is that most people like to either choose their pastries or to be able to sample everything. Just like the savouries, I can’t see why smaller versions of the pastries on the plate couldn’t be supplied so that both guests get one of everything.
I really liked this afternoon tea. It doesn’t have quite the daintiness or finesse of service you’ll find in the afternoon tea of the best five-star hotels . But, some of the cakes are just like the ones your mum might have made (but better), others are excellent examples of patisserie. The savoury plate at the start (which like the rest of the tea is available a-la-carte, for £12) is a refreshing change from sandwiches (available if you prefer). The scones were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. For £28 (without champagne) or £38 with, you get a substantial tea which will set you up for the day.
London W1J 9EX