Friday, 10 August 2012


K and I embarked on another restaurant adventure tonight, this time at Barbecoa in One New Change in the city. This place focuses on serving big lumps of meat cooked in a barbecue fashion using a variety of grills. You know what to expect: big steaks, racks of ribs and pulled pork.

It's a joint venture between Jamie Oliver (sufficient time having passed that my previous experience of Jamie's Italian had receded from my consciousness) and Adam Perry Lang, an American chef specialising in American barbecue who also has a TV career on NBC (thanks Google). So, a pair of popular chefs, each bringing their own style, combined in an alter to seared meat overlooking St Paul's Cathedral. Sounds like a reasonable set-up.

The interior is very modern city chic: dark, leather, metal and glass everywhere. As you walk to your table you walk passed the kitchen which has a window so you can see in apart from the pass which is open directly to the dining room. The restaurant definitely makes the most of its location. One entire side of the place is glazed giving a view of the cathedral from every table. The ambience is good with the buzz that comes from people eating out on a Friday night. This was the view from out table:

But, was the food any good?

Pork Scratchings
Apple and Thyme Sauce

A massive board of warm crispy bits of pig skin with a few crispy sage leaves and an apple sauce dip with a wonderful scent of thyme. So good they went down rather quickly. A cracking start.

Pit-Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Coriander and Chilli

The ribs were a tender pork-fest. The meat was stripped from the bones with only the slightest tug from my lips. The barbeque sauce was like HP on steroids full. The chilli and spring onion didn't really do it for me. The onion was too harsh and over-loaded the barbecue sauce and pork far too easily (as did the chilli, but I am a massive softy when it come to the Scoville scale). I'd have much preferred these without the garnishes.

The Crispy Calamari K had were good (suitably tender) and accompanied by some creamy avocado.

Dry-Aged Rump Steak
Charred Aubergine, Shallots, Tomato, Chilli and Sweet Marjoram

Clearly I was only ever going to have steak (what else would you have at a steak place?). Whenever possible I tend to go for rump as its got more flavour than other cuts. The downside to this is that you need it medium-rare rather than rare to ensure that you don't get a work-out for your jaws, so I was quite surprised when the waiter said I could have it blue. That's a little too far for me. With some caution I went for rare.

The steak was well cooked, perfectly rare with a dark crust and surprisingly tender. A good flavoursome steak served with reasonable salad and relishes. It provided the beef hit with to a good standard. It didn't make me want to jump out of my seat and bellow its praises from the rafters, unfortunately. A distinct case of "hmmm, yeah, nice steak", nothing more.

K's Pulled pork waffle and BBQ sauce was not so good either. The sauce was far too sweet and overpowered everything. On the evidence of this, I'd suggest that "restraint" hasn't entered US English.

Since K had practically already had pudding and there wasn't really anything interesting on the dessert menu, not to say we were both pretty full of protein, we didn't finish with anything sweet.

Overall, I felt a little cheated by Barbecoa. It's in a great location and the service is good and the food perfectly acceptable. I was expecting a riot of meat and American barbecue like you see on Man vs. Food or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and I just didn't get it. Everything seemed just a little to restraint(!). Maybe it's because Barbecoa is aimed at a the city's slightly posher crowd; the bill certainly is.

Barbecoa on Urbanspoon

On the way out I noticed that Ramsay's recently opened Bread Street Kitchen is just opposite. The media got far too excited about Ramsay and Jamie opening up next-door restaurants when it was first announced. I'd quite like to see what the competition is like.

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