I’ve been aware of The Barbary, a very highly acclaimed Michelin starred restaurant in Covent Garden serving cuisine from the Barbary Coast (Northern Africa) to Israel, since dining solo at The Palomar, their sister restaurant. I was really keen on going to The Barbary, but I didn’t think the menu had much on it for Shiima, so I had it on the top of my solo excursion list. Then a couple of weeks ago, a very good friend of ours gushed about dining at The Barbary and implored both Shiima and I to go immediately because she believed we’d both love it. So I reserved two spots for dinner last Thursday (Friday and Saturday were fully booked).
The Barbary is in Neal’s Yard right in the heart of Covent Garden. We booked dinner for 5PM, as that’s the only time you can reserve for dinner (or 12PM for lunch), and when we arrived at about 5:05PM the small restaurant was already full to the brim with lots of people already queuing up for spots. As I mentioned, the restaurant is fairly small and seating is around a squared U-shaped counter that overlooks the incredibly lively and friendly open kitchen and bar. This all makes for an incredible atmosphere and it almost feels like a vivacious family is hosting you for dinner at theirs.
The menu is simple, split into Baking & Grinding – freshly baked breads and dips – and A-LA-ESH – for dishes from Land (Meat), Sea (Fish), and Earth (Vegetables).
What we ordered
From Baking & Grinding, Shiima ordered naan e barbari (naan bread) with Baba Ghanoush and Halloumi; I ordered Jerusalem Bagel with Msabacha chickpeas. From Land, Shiima ordered Chicken Abu Kalmash and I ordered Pata Negra Neck. I finished with Gamba Pilpel from Sea.
Review of the Food
Baking & Grinding
Everything we ordered was awesome. We both love freshly baked bread so we were going to love the naan and the bagel regardless, but it surpassed our expectations. The breads were delicious on its own but so much more delicious combined with the rich baba ghanoush and the equally rich and delicious hummus (msabacha chickpeas). I’ve never had baba ghanoush before, but regardless of that I had high expectations and it met those expectations.
The halloumi was great! So meaty and cheesy, and grilled to perfection. The best halloumi I’ve ever eaten (I actually bought some halloumi earlier today for breakfast tomorrow, hopefully it tastes close to The Barbary’s lol).
Shiima’s Chicken Abu Kalmash was tremendous… perfectly seasoned succulent pieces of chicken thighs. Plus, it was garnished with baby tomatoes, which she loves. Now, my Pata Negra neck is simply one of the best pork dishes I’ve enjoyed. I usually only go for pork belly, but this has changed that. I loved the taste so much I had to asked the chef what seasoning was used… he said it was ras el hanout, but that most of the flavour comes from the pork itself. Oh my god, my mouth is watering now just writing about it.
Gamba Pilpel is large grilled king prawns and there were delicious, so much that I ate the tail and the head as well, which Shiima thought was disgusting, but it was damn tasty! Lol
Shiima was full and wasn’t keen on dessert, but I loved the dessert I had at The Palomar so I’d already made up my mind that I was going to have one. I know what Baklawa is, but I had no idea what the other desserts were so I asked a waiter to talk me through the options. After talking to him, there was only one choice… Hashcake.
I love tarts and I love pistachios, and this was a really good marriage of both. I really enjoyed it, and it was sweet, but not too sweet and the taste wasn’t too exotic… it actually tasted simple and delicious.
The Barbary more than lives up to its lofty acclaim. We loved every minute of it. The food was amazing, the atmosphere really lively and the service was very friendly. Also, it was very fairly priced… but, and this is unusual, service charge isn’t included, so don’t forget to leave a tip. I recommend for foodies, casual dates, and a casual meal with friends. Do bare in mind you can only reserve for the first seating (5PM dinner; 12PM lunch), so try to get there early, especially if you’re going in a group, otherwise be prepared to wait for at least 40 minutes… but it’s worth it!
Cuisine: Northern African, Middle Eastern.
Dress Code: Casual
Shiima’s Star Dish: Baba Ghanoush w/ Naan
Amen’s Star Dish: Pata Negra Neck
Price: £20 – £30
Rating: 5 out of 5
16 Neal’s Yard
London WC2H 9DP
Reserve at their website