Have you heard of the Barbary?
I ask my friends and they say no. That’s because most normal people with normal jobs don’t have the time to follow every new restaurant opening and decipher which ones are awesome – and which are obviously money laundering schemes. That’s where us bloggers come in. (After bingeing through Ozark season 1 I now suspect money laundering. Everywhere.)
I follow hundreds of different blogs and online magazines so when I see a restaurant pop up in the reviews a few dozen times, I get interested. Bao London, Bob Bob Ricard, StreetXO, The Barbary, and next week I’ll be reviewing XU London, have all received the blogger’s stamp of approval. More than that, they are unique restaurants bringing something new and different to London’s incredibly diverse food scene. These are real finds.
Small confession, I found out about the Barbary before I’d heard of the Palomar. Palomar is the Barbary’s big sister, which opened three years. It’s super popular and highly instagrammable. I’m making it a priority to check it out asap.
Dinner is Walk-ins only
It helps to know a couple of restaurants that don’t do reservations for those last minute plans or times when everything is fully booked. And I don’t mean Nando’s (even though I love it). You can add the Barbary to your list of other walk-ins, such as Smoking Goat, Bao Soho, Spuntino, Homeslice… The Barbary take bookings for lunch, while dinner is walk-ins only.
The restaurant is small, seating just 24 people in one single room with a bar-like open-kitchen smack in the centre. Diners sit on backless bar stools facing the culinary action, limiting the age group to over 10s and under 60s. It works best in groups of 2 or 3, as it’s hard to hold a conversation between four people sat side by side.
The menu is beautifully simple. First decide whether you want naan bread or a sesame-encrusted bagel, or both. I came with a friend and we split a beautifully crafted, buttered and salted naan between the two of us.
Next choose some dips. Their chicken livers dip and baba ghanoush are both heavenly.
Order grilled fish, meat or vegetables for your mains, and definitely go for their dish of the day. We ordered prawns and chicken and devoured them both.
On my visit, they also had these fish cigars and mouthwatering watermelone with mint, almonds, and yogurt.
The cuisine uses a lot of Mediterranean inspired ingredients such as olive oil, garlic, aubergines and yoghurt as well as North African and Middle Eastern flavours like tahini, mint and chickpeas, with the obvious overlaps between the two.
No matter how full you are, if you’re not a dessert person, save it, sister, you’d be crazy not to order the Knafeh, a cheese pastry with syrup. It’s to die for. I am a savoury person but this was actually my favourite dish of them all which is crazy because the food here is super good.
Another highlight is that they offer most of their wines by the carafe, which is perfect for a midweek dinner that will save you the type of morning brain one gets after half a bottle.
I ask my friends again if they’ve heard about the Barbary and I get a different response. Since I get asked a lot now where I recommend eating I always change my answer to reflect what I’ve just discovered. The Barbary, I’ve been saying for weeks. “We just tried the Barbary” they now tell me. “It’s incredible.” You’re welcome, guys. You are very, very welcome.