The Barbary 22

16 Neal's Yard , London, WC2H 9DP

  • The Barbary London restaurant Covent Garden North African cuisine
  • The Barbary London restaurant Covent Garden North African cuisine
  • The Barbary London restaurant Covent Garden North African cuisine
  • The Barbary London restaurant Covent Garden North African cuisine
  • The Barbary London restaurant Covent Garden North African cuisine

SquareMeal Review of The Barbary

The Barbary Coast evokes images of an exotic land of traders and pirates – and it provides inspiration for the second London restaurant from the team behind The Palomar. Like its big brother, The Barbary offers an enticing blend of Israeli cooking with Mediterranean ingredients, but also adds North African spices and cooking techniques. You’ll find a warm welcome and lively vibe in the cosy interior, which echoes a Middle Eastern courtyard with an open kitchen at its heart. No bookings are taken and there are just 24 counter seats. Breads are freshly baked: warm Jerusalem bagel comes with a traditional paper twist of za’atar spice for dipping. The short menu is divided into land (meat), sea (fish) and earth (vegetarian) dishes – all deftly spiced and seasoned, making flavours sing. We were transported to the Middle East with rich, tender Persian goat stew, slow-cooked for eight hours with turmeric, root veg and pomegranate juice. Perfectly grilled swordfish was simply served with capers, roast garlic and vine tomatoes. Desserts are sweet and fragrant – Beirut nights (semolina pudding with rose syrup) lives up to its name with enticing flavours – and another boon is the drinks list, encompassing trendy orange wines, vermouth and arak. 

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8.0

Food & Drink: 9.0

Service: 6.7

Atmosphere: 9.0

Value: 7.0

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 1.0

Carl J. 18 March 2017

The food and atmosphere is great (apart from one dish that was burnt), although my impression could potentially have been influenced by numbed senses from the excruciatingly long wait. I arrived at 8pm on a Friday, put my name down for a company of three and was informed it would take an hour or just over an hour - fine by me. Two hours later and we had still not been seated, odd given ALL other companies of two had been seated. When we finally got a place at the desk we were informed that basically half the menu had sold out and 30 minutes into our meal the chefs started to clean and shut down the kitchen. It would appear you cannot go to this place if you are more than two people. The Maître d’ appears to be utterly incompetent in seating people according to his wait list. To add insult to injury, I noticed said Maître d' sat down for a meal with some of the items that sold out - in the place were you are not allowed to order food - before we even had received or place at the bar.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Mike S. bronze reviewer 23 October 2016

I stumbled upon this place quite by accident, before it's rise through the social networks and reviews from the likes of Time Out and Marina O'Loughlin (someone whose reviews I read often). The original plan was to go to Home Slice a few doors down, but with the queue being out the door we decided to go for drinks first. When our hunger outgrew our thirst we left the wine bar and headed outside when this place caught our eye, it was late so were in the mood for the current trend of smaller sharing plates and I have to say we were not disappointed. We ordered a glass of champagne and took a look at the menu. After being unable to choose between us we discarded it and asked the chef to cook their 5 favourite dishes and were incredibly impressed with what arrived. The stand out dish for me was the lamb, whereas my companion raved about the delicious salmon. I also recommend the delicious Cauliflower dish. I'll definitely be coming back here, only maybe next time I won't have quite so many pre-drinks...

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Gourmand Gunno platinum reviewer 05 September 2016

I was lucky enough to be one of the early visitors to the Palomar and loved it the first time I went and also on every subsequent visit. Day or night, counter or table, it never failed to impress. Indeed, getting a booking there now is notoriously difficult. From the same team now comes their second offering, The Barbary, a tiny outlet located in Covent Garden’s Neal’s Yard area. If the Palomar takes its logical inspiration from Israel, drawing on both the Mediterranean to the west and the Middle East on the opposite side, then The Barbary’s reach is even wider. As the name suggests, the Barbary Coast is the culinary focus for this restaurant, the chefs invoking influences from the middle and western coastal regions of North Africa. It is always unfair to make too many comparisons: the Barbary is not trying to be the Palomar. The former is much smaller – just 24 covers, seated around a horseshoe-shaped bar with no reservations – with a dark, funky and slightly dirty (in a cool way) atmosphere, perhaps reminiscent of a souk at some level. The music matches the atmosphere, hip and eclectic, even at lunchtime when we visited. Despite arriving at 12.10, with the restaurant having opened just 10 minutes prior, The Barbary was already half-full; not the sign of it simply being a new place, but the fact that with an experience this good, there would be every reason to return. Perched on the bar, all diners get to see the chefs at work, a vibrant, lively and entertaining experience. It’s a performance to be savoured, both the visual and obviously the edible. Dishes are priced very fairly (at around £4 for nibbles and £10-15 for mains) and diners are encouraged to mix and match, share and enjoy. In addition to the standard menu, there are daily changing specials too. Things began well with our Berber-style naan bread (plump with the subtlest dash of oil) paired with zhug (a spice paste – and a new word for my lexicon), harissa, burnt and pickled chilli – a perfect and invigorating combination, the comforting with the hot. Mains were all stand-out, so much so that we ordered an additional one. Lamb cutlets ‘Zuzu’ style were intensely succulent, while the octopus ‘Mashawsha’ (served on a bed of pulped chick peas) was close to perfection. There were no failures. Paired with a bottle of Austrian Zweigelt (an interesting option from a diverse list), we were in culinary heaven. At c£50/head – and it would be possible to do things more cheaply than this – I was left in a very good mood. My desire to tell others about this experience is only balanced by the fact that I want there to be a space for me the next time I go.

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The Barbary is included in the following SquareMeal lists