The Barbary is the type of place I’d come to all the time if I lived in London. It has a fun, relaxed vibe, the food is exciting, and the prices are reasonable. The open grill sits in the center of the restaurant like a stage, where diners can pull up at one of the 24 bar seats for a front row seat. Chefs expertly wield the flames to turn out perfectly cooked pieces of grilled meats and other tasty treats robataya-style.
And like the thrill seekers of the Barbary coast, as a diner I felt like I was also stumbling across some interesting new finds. Middle eastern foods never seem to truly capture the attention of the New York dining scene, so things like naan e barbari bread, Jerusalem bagel and moroccan cigars caught my eye as novelties. And nearly everything I tried I wanted to bring back with me stateside. I could probably eat a plate of the Jerusalem bagel and the roe ikra dip everyday. Or any sort of combination of bread and dip. It sounds strange to get so worked up over something like that, but the breads and dips at The Barbary are top notch.
In terms of the meats, the shiniest jewel of them all was the Iberian pork neck, listed as pata negra neck on the menu, which impressively had the texture and flavor of a perfect skirt steak, flavorful and sinewy with just the right ratio of meat to fat. The only thing I would’ve skipped was the octopus which had a strange, gamey flavor. And there’s always room for dessert, like the knafeh pastry, in which thin filaments of phyllo dough are fried and paired with pistachio, raspberries and goat cheese.
We enjoyed our meal so much, we were tempted to return the next day and take down the rest of the menu. But the great thing about London is that there are lots of exciting ethnic restaurants to choose from, so while the expedition to the Barbary coast was great, there were many many new territories to explore in town.
16 Neal’s Yard
London WC2H 9DP, UK
+44 7378 542350
Ideal meal: jerusalem bagel, ikra dip, pata negra neck and knafeh dessert