Arriving solo for our review, my first impressions of Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa were: well, this is a bit swish for a dinner date with the munchkins. You’re welcomed downstairs at a separate reception by sleek looking hostesses; then led upstairs where the decor is urban contemporary and the vibe is distinctly ‘city boy’. The phrase ‘child-friendly’ doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
But after glancing around the clientele and spotting a few families amongst the banker types, I felt a little more relaxed about unleashing my boisterous babes here.
Ezra, Jed and their dad soon joined me at our banquette seats, where we took in the fabulous view and played I Spy until our menus came. Through the large windows, we could see St. Paul’s Cathedral looming majestically and the hustle and bustle of London below. Very atmospheric.
Our menus arrived and it wasn’t long before we were drooling over options. As its name suggests, Barbecoa is all about our most primitive cooking method: with a focus on slow-cooked, dry-aged meats and seafood grilled to perfection. The restaurant draws its inspiration partly from the Argentinian steak houses that Jamie Oliver visited on his travels.
As with all Jamie Oliver’s output, the children’s food is about real nutrients, as opposed to just stuffing little faces. Everything is free-range or organic and there’s a big emphasis on quality at source. The kids’ menu includes Sausage and Smashed Sweet Potato (Ezra swapped his mash for chips), Grilled Chicken and Rainbow Slaw (Jed swapped his slaw for chips… spotting a pattern here?), as well as Baked Fillet of Fish and Garlic Naan.
Desserts are priced separately and do sound a little grown-up: Brownie with Poached Cherries and ice cream, or ice creams ranging from Dark Chocolate to Mandarin Sorbet.
We ordered sharing plates of Sticky Spare Ribs, Buffalo Wings and Devil’s Cornbread for starters.
The wings were tangy and tasty, the ribs were so-so (thick and meaty but not that excitingly seasoned), however the cornbread… oh the cornbread. I’m a sucker for really delicious, deep fried southern soul food, and the best authentic cornbread I’ve eaten is in Harlem, New York. But Barbecoa’s cornbread is in a class of its own— first of all I didn’t even recognise the dish when it arrived.
It looked more like a frittata in a pan, flavoured with London ’Nduja and Westcombe Cheddar, and it tasted like heaven.
We were already quite full but determined to take a crack at the mains. I like my steak medium (el punto or ‘just right’) and Abiye prefers jugoso (‘medium-rare’), so we’d abandoned our plan for a Chateaubriand for Two.
My Sirloin Steak was plump and juicy and slathered in truffle butter. Om to da nom. The mister was making very ‘happy papi’ noises as he sliced into his T-bone steak (top pic) — 20oz of proper man grub. Sides included Creamed Spinach, Charred Broccoli and Beef Dripping chips. What a treat.
Our meal was heightened by our choice of wine — a Malbec to suit the mood, and one of their happy hour 5 O’Clocktails each. I’m so glad I took my extras home, because I appreciated that steak as much the following day, thinly sliced in a sandwich. Oh yeah.
Barbecoa is at 20 New Change Passage, London, EC4M 9AG (St. Paul’s tube). Tel: 020 3005 8555. Visit www.barbecoa.com