Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa Celebrates a Fifth Birthday:
Recently back from Kentucky and South Carolina, I was intrigued by the invitation to review Barbecoa, the UK’s first Barbecue Steakhouse. And, despite having loitered around St Paul’s on many occasions, amazed that I’d never actually noticed One New Change, home to the restaurant and some rather smart shops.
There’s a well known instagrammer called @LookupLondon. I love his/her pictures and often feel inspired and take a second look at the architecture and buildings of London. Here it was simply looking at the cathedral from a different angle that took my breath away. When I arrived on a clear wintery evening, I was stunned. If you are looking for something other than a river view, this must be one of the best in London.
Obviously, visiting somewhere that specialises in whiskey and bourbon I needed to try a my new love, bourbon. I have developed a dangerous taste for the stuff – I like the smokey caramel notes that you get from the charred barrel.
My wild turkey 101 8YO was delicious – at 50% abv it had a real kick too. I probably should have stuck with champagne, but what’s life if you don’t live dangerously from time to time.
We decided to share a starter of crispy calamari and were quite pleased when the generous platter arrived. The calamari is served with a smoked red pepper romesco and some lime, an unusual and really rather tasty alternative to aioli or chilli jam. Very welcome too by my companion, who doesn’t like tomato. Calamari was pleasant but not exceptional but the romesco was very good indeed.
Being able to order a Chateaubriand depends on dining with someone who likes steak as much as me and who enjoys their meat cooked to about the same level of done-ness. It’s a delicious cut of meat which I particularly like rare. Luckily my companion wanted hers medium rare. So, she had the ‘end pieces’ while I got perfectly rare slices of meat. At Barbecoa it is served with truffle butter. We ordered a garden salad and beef dripping chips to accompany.
If I have any criticism of service throughout the meal it is that our Chateaubriand was served ready sliced. There’s something rather special about having it cut at the table and it helps to keep the meat warmer. But, for the most part service at Barbecoa was exceptionally good. We chatted away to our server and she explained that she’d grown up through the Jamie Oliver family, starting her career at fifteen before moving to Barbecoa. We were genuinely impressed by her knowledge of the food and of the wines. She steered us away from the cheapest malbec to Amalaya ‘Gran Corte’ 2013, a soft, rounded malbec blend which we both enjoyed a little too much. And, she was able to answer all our questions, including whether there was tomato in the romesco, without having to check back with the kitchen.
Service is, perhaps, the biggest difference between restaurants in the US and in the UK. It took me six days travelling around Kentucky and South Carolina to put my finger on it – when I did, I asked. In the US everyone who serves at table gets extensive training before they are allowed on the restaurant floor. Even if they’ve worked as a waiter before. Here, for the most part waiters and waitresses seem to be expected to pick it up as they go, they often have a poor command of English and they seldom know much about the food they are serving and less still about the drinks on offer. Barbecoa was a great exception, our service was first class.
We might have passed on desserts, but when we visited Barbecoa was celebrating their fifth birthday with a platter of the various desserts they have served over the last five years for just £5. I particularly liked the pannacotta and the sticky toffee pudding. But, the whole thing was a dessert lover’s dream.
All in Barbecoa was a pleasant surprise. The main event was beautifully cooked, tender meat. Dessert, a cross section of comfort classics, in portion sizes that didn’t make me feel (too) much guilt. And, smooth service together with a splendid view. Pricing is respectable for this part of London and excellent for anywhere with this kind of view. Starters are priced from £9 to £15 while mains are mostly between £20 and £30. It is somewhere that wouldn’t seem out of place in Kentucky or Greenville, South Carolina yet with a British twist to many of the dishes.
20 New Change Passage
City of London EC4M 9AG
TEL: 020 3005 8555