I haven’t had been out for dinner in London for a while, and so perhaps that’s why I may have appreciated the Barbary even more than usual.
The place is tiny but so atmospheric. There are no tables, just one large kitchen bar, with 24 seats around it. The focal point is clearly the kitchen, where chefs cheerfully work away at creating beautiful, mostly grilled, dishes from Jerusalem and the Barbary Coast. I’d never heard of the Barbary coast (also known as the Berber coast), but it’s the coast off Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya. So expect a mixture of flavours from the Middle East and North Africa.
I was expecting a long wait, as this is no normal restaurant opening. The Barbary is the little brother of one of my all time favourite London restaurants: The Palomar. But we only waited about 15 minutes, with a glass of rouge from the Languedoc (they have a range of European wines on offer) and a delicious lamb/pork mince in a grilled pitta with humous.
After 10 minutes the waitress suddenly bounded up to us with a bottle and three shot glasses. ‘Sorry for the wait, guys’, she said, ‘this should ease the pain’. And poured us all, her included, a shot of limoncello-esque liqueur. Later we observed the whole restaurant, chefs included, do another shot. It clearly contributed to the lively vibe.
Like The Palomar, the menu offers a range of small sharing plates. We opted for the Naan e Barbari (mouth wateringly delicious), a wonderful smokey Baba Ganoush, the Pata Negra Neck (such succulent meat), the grilled prawns (huge and juicy, but sadly just two of them), the Cauliflower Jaffa style (possibly my favourite dish) and the Kholrabi, Rocket and Peas, with feta sumac vinaigrette (super fresh and light). Last we ordered the Jerusalem Bagel which was also excellent, and good to soak up all the juices and sauces (though only order if you love sesame seeds).
The price easily adds up, and it’s hard not to be greedy. But the food is very filling, so be warned – there is no need to order more than 8 dishes.
This truly is the perfect Thursday night place, it gets you in the mood for the weekend, makes you forget work stress and more than satisfies your hunger (and tastebuds). Go now before the word properly spreads.
16 Neal’s Yard
London WC2H 9DP