Whilst I try and stay on top of new openings in London, I’m just as keen to work my way through my restaurants wishlist which still includes the likes of Clove Club, Restaurant Story, and Gymkhana. Progress was made this week as I finally made it to The Barbary, one year after it opened it’s doors to the colourful surroundings of Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. To avoid queues, we took advantage of their limited booking slots (12 noon Mon-Sun, and 5pm Mon-Fri) and grabbed two stools for lunch.
The restaurant takes inspiration from the Barbary Coast. Identified by 16th century Europeans as the area settled by the Berbers in the Atlas Mountains (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), the Barbary Coast was infamous for pirates and (until the beginning of the 20th century) the Barbary Lion. The Barbary menu reflects the countries from the Atlantic Coast through to the Mediterranean Sea leading to Israel. The Barbary
The Barbary only has 24 seats, and they’re all up at the counter surrounding a central open kitchen, so be prepared to feel the heat of their fiery grills and clay ovens. Thankfully, they’ve left a bit more space between diners and the wall than at their sister restaurant The Palomar, so no jostling is required. Wasting no time, we ordered several dishes to share, starting with their magnificent Jerusalem bagel – a perfectly baked ring of dough coated in sesame seeds and served with a pouch of za’atar for Salt Bae impersonating. For dipping, we opted for beetroot and labneh, and an out of this world baba ganoush. It’s worth coming for this alone. Just ask Marina, Grace and David. Elsewhere, the spiced lamb stuffed pittas or Arayes were also a hit, especially when covered with dollops of yoghurt and harissa.
Moving on to the A-La-Esh (from the grill) section, a well spiced Cauliflower Jaffa Style didn’t hit the heights of Miznon or Berber & Q’s take on everyone’s new favourite vegetable (sorry aubergine fans), but the charred Octopus Mashawsha with chickpeas, yoghurt and a punchy mango chilli sauce was a winner. A daily special of Shish Kebab packed with flavoursome meat and pine nuts, sat nicely upon a generous helping of green tahini sauce.
To finish, we greedily called for three desserts, two of which nearly stole the show. The standout was their flourless pistachio Hashcake – a rich slice of heaven accompanied by cream. And one should never turn down a Knafeh, which is best described as a deep fried pistachio and cheese pastry, akin to baklava but much more fun. Theirs has the added bonus of raspberries. A cute pot of halva ice cream wasn’t entirely necessary, but will be appreciated by those with a sweet tooth. Our lunch at The Barbary was magnificent, and goes straight into The Best section. I’ll be back soon for more bagels and baba ganoush – I’ve got to make up for that first year without them after all.
The Barbary – thebarbary.co.uk
16 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, WC2H 9DP