Meat, Fire and Smoke | Barbecoa, One New Change, London
Barbecoa over in One New Change was on our list back when it opened way back in 2010 – that’s like three decades ago in restaurant years. It has since been wiped off our never-ending list and replaced with new openings that appealed much more. In terms of hierarchy, it totally lost its place. News like this kind of thing didn’t help to entice us either.
We have mixed views when it comes to Jamie Oliver. Yes, we love his recipes and style of relaxed cooking – many of my go-to-dishes are from his books but when it comes to his restaurants, well we’ve not had the best experiences.
Saying that, we’ve only been to Jamie’s Italian a couple of times purely for logistical reasons, we found it nothing to write home about. Fifteen, on the other hand, seems to get glowing reports but we’ve not yet had the chance to try it for ourselves. Interesting how such a massive brand can appear to be so inconsistent.
Anyway, so we’d been booked in to review Jamie’s stand-alone restaurant Barbecoa for a few weeks and I hadn’t built up the slightest twinge of excitement. Visiting new restaurants usually fills me with a similar feeling that ‘normal’ people get when purchasing new clothes or watching the latest series on Netflix. I was that disinterested that I hadn’t even looked up the menu.
We’d both had an incredibly stressful day on the date of our visit and personally I couldn’t be bothered to deal with a mediocre meal to top off such a busy time. This sounds so harsh but despite what the haters say, blogging is work and it does help massively if we enjoy it. Hence why we’re so particular about the restaurants we choose to visit and review.
First impressions were a little dubious – we’d booked through Opentable and the staff couldn’t find our booking. This meant frantic rummaging around in in boxes on our phones for reference numbers and confirmations. Once that was dealt with, we were assigned a really great waitress whose smile was infectious and made me realise how much of a grumpy mood I was in.
Barbecoa‘s kitchen is decked out with all kinds of grills – robatas, Argentinian grills, wood-fired ovens, Texas pit smokers and even a tandoor oven. We passed by as slowly as was we could get away with on the way to our table but couldn’t really stop to gawp, as much as we wanted to. Decor is sleek and stylish, modern and masculine but surprisingly cosy and twinkly. All black, brass and amber with hints of polished stone and dark glazed tiles.
A glass of Montessu, 2013 (£7.50) in one hand and a surprisingly understated yet appealing menu in the other plus stunning views of St Paul’s cathedral, things were on the up. We chatted to our waitress who told us Jamie had been in the previous day and how she’d been so starstruck she didn’t know what to do with herself. Looks like we picked the wrong date to visit.
Starters arrived pretty sharpish, especially considering the vastness of the restaurant and how busy it was. Oak-smoked duck, bourbon cherries, bitter leaves, roasted chestnuts (£12) was everything I hoped it would be – tender and smoky, a perfectly light starter that couldn’t be faulted.
Ade went for buffalo wings – a dish that he can’t resist whenever he sees it on a menu, Chicken wings in a buffalo hot sauce with chicken skin (£8). Not as spicy as he’s used to but as each chicken wing was stripped right down to the bone and his fingers licked clean of every last drop of buffalo sauce, he wasn’t too concerned.
Our mains were just as fast to arrive – but not too quick that it was worryingly off-putting. I went for the succulent and juicy Dry-aged pork chop, cinder-pit cabbage, pickled elderberry (£24) the waitress told me I’d ordered two of the new dishes on the menu. Because of this the kitchen asked for feedback which was good to see.
There wasn’t much to complain about, the only negative that I could come up with was that I wished there had been a few more elderberries to my meat. Ironically, it was the elderberries that I ended up having left on my plate when I’d finished – my brain isn’t very good at working out meat and sauce ratios.
Pit-beef, Worcestershire glaze, oyster mayo, lettuce, bacon crumble (£22) received both complimentary noises and facial expressions from Ade – the type I don’t hear or see all that often. Big bold flavours with fall-off-the-bone tender meat, he loved the little touches especially the crispy bacon crumble on the lettuce. He even went nuts for the Broccoli with miso and almonds (£4) not much brings out his appreciation for veggies – this certainly did the trick. Our other side of Mash with burnt ends and gravy (£5) was just as good as the dish Pitt Cue used to serve – high praise indeed.
Desserts bought about much want and deliberation – the Dark chocolate and caramel, pecan, bourbon and bacon sundae (£8) jumped out at Ade but then the Barbecoa brownie with cherry-ripple ice cream, poached cherries (£8.50) was screaming his name too. We did what we usually do in these tough decision-making situations – ask our server.
The brownie won and didn’t disappoint either, so soft, so gooey so chocolatey. Even the cherries were amazing, just picked fresh and natural – no over sweetening here. I am a sucker for anything lemony – especially a meringue pie. The Lemon meringue with mandarin and toasted meringue (£8.50) just had to be ordered – loved the meringue smear, a nice touch.
I didn’t think I’d find myself recommending Barbecoa but that’s exactly what happened. Neither of us were too keen on the acoustics, it’s pretty buzzy and loud, the tables are a little close together (for us, anyway). Ade totally lost any interest in what I was saying when a couple of friends that were seated next to us started chatting. He couldn’t help listening to them more than me (impossible not to) and then found himself getting wound up when all he could hear was their bragging.
The menu was thoughtful and seasonal – shying away from the obvious seen-it-all-before dishes and adding a twist of something different. As we made our way out past the windows of the vast kitchens with massive hunks of beef being cooked – a peep show for carnivores, our moods were lifted and our bellies happy. Now that’s an impressive achievement. Nice one, Jamie – we’re pleased we were proved wrong, just please don’t make Barbecoa into a chain.
20 New Change Passage London, EC4M 9AG
Telephone: 020 3005 8555
Book a table online
Opening times: Monday to Saturday: 11:30am–11:00pm
Sunday & Bank holidays: 12:00pm–10:00pm
Nearest station: St. Paul’s (2 mins walk)
Mansion House (5 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Barbecoa, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.