About Time Too | Bar Douro, Flat Iron Square, London
We’ve been trying to go to Bar Douro for what seems like forever. We popped by at least five times and at each speculative visit we were told the same thing – something along the lines of ‘sorry, if you haven’t booked, there’s no room today!’
This tiny Portuguese restaurant and bar was given rave reviews, particularly from Marina O’Loughlin and ever since getting a walk-in table at Bar Douro is rarer than a genuine relationship on Love Island. Damn you Marina!
Its popularity hasn’t been hampered by the fact that it’s a little tricky to find, tucked away in Southwark Street’s new(ish) Flat Iron Square that, along with Union Yard, forms a part of the Bankside Low Line project.
So eventually, a mere 227 days after it opened, we got our bums into gear and actually booked a table. A table for three (a birthday treat for a friend and an excuse to order more of Bar Douro’s sharing plates) at 7pm on a hot summer evening – you know, one of those four days that we had this year.
We decided to sit outside on their small decked patio and take advantage of the weather. That said, sitting inside the bright and airy restaurant any time of year would make you feel as if your on your summer holiday. Decor is traditional Portuguese – blue and white azulejos tiles, stained wooden floors with bar stools set at the open kitchen and by a long curving marble-topped counter.
Almost everyone I know has just been or are planning to go to Portugal. But proper Portuguese restaurants over here are very rare (whilst checking Tripadvisor, its top 20 Portuguese restaurants in London contains nine branches of Nando’s).
Named after The River Douro, one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, that flows from its source near Duruelo de la Sierra, across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto. The dishes served at Bar Douro are heavily influenced by this region, the owners say that the restaurant was created as a way to bring authentic Portuguese food to London and we think they’ve bloody well cracked it.
First up were a couple of nibbles from the petiscos section (that’s snacks to you and me). I could have munched on the Pão com Chouriço (Chouriço bread £3), all evening – crumbled pimento-rich sausage similar to chorizo (bet you had guessed that) folded into the dough before baking, sliced and served with some olive oil. Don’t miss the light and fluffy Pataniscas de Bacalhau (Salt cod fritters £4), served with a smoked paprika aïoli.
It’s hardly surprising that Bar Douro has an extensive all-Portuguese wine list from small producer and a decent selection of port. The waitress’ recommendation of a white port and tonic was spot on – clean and refreshing. But we weren’t here for the booze (well, not just the booze anyway) it was for the Pork “Alentejana” (£9) with clams, coriander and a smear of Jerusalem artichoke puree, that Marina had to restrain herself from licking the plate. Unfortunately in our case, we found it a tad bland and lacking any punch so no plate licking necessary.
My favourite was by far the Octopus with sweet potato (£11) – perfectly charred on the outside yet tender and white inside. This we paired with a big colourful plate of Heirloom tomatoes (£5) drizzled with white port vinaigrette. Top tip: save a little of the Pão com Chouriço to mop up this vinaigrette – you can thank me later!
You can’t go to a Portuguese restaurant without sampling the Piri-piri chicken and you won’t be disappointed with Bar Douro’s offering of Piri-piri chicken wings (£5.50) – a great valued portion of coated wings striking the perfect balance between chilli and citrus, easily enough for the three of us to share. Add a portion of BD Potatoes (£4.50) with cute little blobs of coriander mayonnaise and that knocks Nando’s butterfly chicken and peri salted chips right out of the Gulf of Cádiz.
Bar Douro’s desserts are just as impressive as the savoury dishes. With only four on the menu, the three of us decided to choose a different each and share the forth. Unfortunately none of fancied the orange and olive oil cake, so it missed the cut.
I was intrigued by the Abade de priscos (£5), a traditional egg yolk pudding with a smooth delicate texture but an absolutely intense flavour. Apparently many Portuguese desserts are made just using egg yolks because the whites were used to starch the headdresses worn by nuns.
Saff nabbed the Pastel de nata with cinnamon ice cream (£4.50) – the classic Portuguese tart made using layer upon layer of puff pastry and a filling of sweet set egg custard. Whilst Keith ordered the Baba de camelo (£5) – a caramel mousse that’s like a pimped up butterscotch Angel Delight and that’s a compliment – honest!
What we’d all saved room for was a glass of port for the road and to save on valuable decision-making time we opted for the Port Flight – a 50ml measure of white, 10 Year old Tawny and LBV all for £11, amazing.
Coincidentally just as I was finishing that last paragraph by phone beeped. It was an old colleague of mine inviting Saff and I over to stay at Casa Rosada, his beautiful little B&B situated at the easternmost point of the Algarve. So please forgive me forgive for finishing this review so hastily, I’m off to book a couple of tickets to Portugal – Tchau! Até mais tarde.*
*Bye! see you later.
Find out more here
Arch 35b Flat Iron Square, Union Street, London SE1 1TD
Monday – Saturday: 12.00 – 23.30
Sunday: 12.00 – 17.00
Nearest station: London Bridge (5 mins walk) (6 mins walk) Southwark (11 mins walk)