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Barbecoa in the City of London

Barbecoa. Now I know this is a bit of a hate word to many foodies in London but, coming from the outside, with a touch of perspective, I find it quite exciting.

Baby back ribs

For those of you not from London, it is Jamie Oliver’s new barbeque venture with Adam Perry Lang and (from the look of the interior) a lot of very rich financiers who have paid for it to be kitted it out with Tom Dixon custom designed kit. It is situated in One New Change, the new “stealth bomber” designed shopping mall by the famous architect Jean Nouvel. Now apart from repeating a lot of buzzwords what does it mean?

Crispy pig's cheeks

Well, the food has been panned. Dos Hermanos captioned their review “monstrous carbuncle” and people on Twitter seemed of the view it was very missable and fairly surprised that I chose it was one of the restaurants to visit during a week in London (that said they were right as I did decide to visit just 4 hours before a meal at the Ledbury). Still, and I did only try two starters, it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t even bad, it was average to ok.

The ribs (and the wording was suggested by Gourmettraveller) were “tasty (albeit a bit dry)” and the pig’s cheeks could have done with something but were cooked well. That was all I was able to fit in but on such evidence I’ld happily eat there again but wouldn’t bother holding my breath for a mind altering meal.

Still, to put it in perspective, this was the use of pig’s cheeks, in a mass market restaurant, in the City of London, with perfect views of St Paul’s. If you want to compare this to the best of class BBQ joints in the US you will be disappointed (though I think one can have a rosy picture of those). What you have with Barbecoa is the next generation of mass eateries, what I would call post Terence Conran/ Alan Yau dining in London. It might be mass market but it is making an effort. And, for some reason I hold out a hope that it could get really rather good over the long run (though I have no justificiation for this apart from envy at their beautiful cast iron oven).

And everything else apart from the food is spot on. Excited, friendly service. Beautiful, solid industrial design. The best views of the London’s greatest building (St Paul’s) that City priced food can buy. And, the other really exciting thing is the butcher. One New Change is the newest, most glamorous building in London and what does it come with? A big clunking butcher doing every which way cut of meat and who are happy to take the time out of their day and talk to you about them.

The Adam Perry Lang butcher shop downstairs from Barbecoa

So Barbecoa isn’t perfect, the food isn’t going to revolutionise your life but when a new shopping mall makes some space for a restaurant that *tries* Southern style BBQ and swaps out a Topshop for a butcher, you will still find me smiling.

  • Price – £25 upwards
  • 20 New Change Passage London, EC4M 9AG

PS if someone could go in 6 months and tell me what it is like then I would be very grateful.

Barbecoa on Urbanspoon

11 Comments

  1. I’ve heard meh things about Barbecoa too but am still booked in to go in two weeks :) Hopefully they’ve put a little moisture back into the ribs by then because I WANT THOSE RIBS!

    • I think the meh things are right but I think people are expecting it to be like the best in class of US barbecue places. I am comparing it to Pizza Express. I am hoping Grubworm will go in 6 months and tell me my hopeful thoughts were right. Of course, I may well be very wrong and it continues in the same vein (and as slammed by Chris Pople/ Dos Hermanos)!!

  2. Like you say, it’s sometimes good to get a little perspective from outside the London foodie bubble that it’s easy to get stuck in. It is something that somewhere like ONC, which must be premium shopping space finds room for not just a butcher, but a Very Big butcher. Not that badly priced either.

    I am also holding out hope for the BBQ joint, mostly because, having read a fair few bad things about Jamie’s Italian, i have started to hear some positive stuff about the food there too. Fingers crossed the BBQ works out (not least because it’s walking distance from where I work).

    • I think you have to compare Barbecoa to places like Ping Pong, Pizza Express, Wagamama etc as that is where it is coming from. You also have to say, this is trying to do something interesting in the most corporate of environments. It definitely isn’t working perfectly but I have been to Skylon a lot of times and had some really shitty food there but enjoyed the experience as you know what you are getting (a view with average food).

      Ironically shopping malls are where some of the best food is in HK – high end = Caprice, Robuchon etc. / low end = cooked food centres. Mmmm.

    • PPS please go in 6 months and give me an update. I am very curious… Wait till then, every review till now has been of a soft opening and it is evident they are going through a lot of adjustment.

  3. Hey Tom, glad to have you back!
    Barbecoa hasn’t opened when I was at One New Change. Read Evening Standard Fay Maschler’s review on Barbecoa the other day and she seems to suggest that the view is all the restaurant has got. Can’t say that I am in a hurry to try it though but I wonder how does Barbecoa’s the pig’s cheeks compare to St John’s.

    • I read Fay’s after going and I don’t think she is wrong. I suppose I am just approaching it from a slightly different tilt. For a boring corporate shopping mall this could have been a Pizza Express. I think, on balance, this is far better and I still (perhaps unfoundedly) think it might eventually be quite good!

      St John’s cheeks are better – can vouch for that!

  4. Pretty much all of the reviews of this restaurant other than yours have given it a right royal shoeing! I don’t doubt that the bloggers and critics have a point but I think there’s a lot to be said for your ‘wait 6 months theory’.

    I remember in the summer, the newly-opened Redhook was similarly panned by bloggers and critics alike. However, when I went there two weeks ago with work, I thought that the steaks and seafood were fine and the service was exceptional (as were the cocktails). It wasn’t cheap but few places in that neck of the woods are. Not the best steak I’ve had but far from the shocker that I was half expecting. I spoke to the waitress about the critical mauling and she said that they made an effort to turn things around and that more recent reviews have been more positive.

    Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that it does take time for things to settle down and it isn’t always a bad thing to, as you suggest, wait a few months for things to settle down.

    • Ha – well, what does one expect? Don’t expect The Ledbury and eat in the city at a mass market Jamie Oliver joint.

      That said, I suppose I am treating it different from other places by saying giving it a nestling in time. Still it is damn apparent that what it is in a year will be very different from what it is now. Most of the reviews have been in a soft launch (as I seem to be one of the few who paid full price) or in the first 3 months.

      Putting aside the excitement at eating in a restaurant, let’s be honest, one should never review somewhere in the first 6 months anyway. I do it regualrly as I can’t wait to try new things but it is pretty unfair of me. For instance, Viajante, is by all recent reviews, doing great – my meal just after soft opening wasn’t amazing.

  5. I think people find it too easy to poo-poo anything that Jamie Oliver does. I think you’re right that the food isn’t perfect but then how would you define perfect and what would you expect to pay for it? Lolli (my wife) has been twice now and she noted improvements in food and service on the second visit, so there is some hope that the place is finding it’s feet.

    • I still find it remarkable that he is one of the few public figures in the media who approaches something (well indeed anything) with a touch of morals. There might be some good business sense underlying it but at least he tries. More than can be said for all the other public figures in food I can think of off the top of my head.

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