"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Although I’m no fan of Prince Charles or his bizarre views on architecture – he seems to want all of London re-modelled to look like it was frozen in time around the early 19th century – I’m pretty sure we’d be of one mind regarding One New Change in the City of London.

Ok, so there wasn’t much there before but as we know, business abhors a vacuum. So instead of say, a nice large public space from which one could admire Wren’s masterpiece, we get the ‘Stealth Bomber’, a shopping mall as stealthy as Katie Price in a Shrinking Violet contest. A shopping mall filled with the sort of places you would only see if you walked for, oh, a few minutes in any direction. Be assured your Nando’s requirements are fully served by 1NC.

The prime location in this behemoth - which presumably came with a suitably stiff price tag - is occupied by Barbecoa a collaboration between Adam Perry Lang (who he?) and our own, cheeky, chappy, TV Chef, St Jamie of Oliver.

I’ll fess up now and say my attitude to JO is one of indifference. His early TV series, with its wobbly camera work and its slappy happy young ‘uns just got on my tits so I never watched it again. I hear he’s been doing stuff to help fat Americans recently (he’s got his work cut out) which is all fine and dandy although I tend to be more impressed by people who just get on with their good works without a TV camera and book deal in tow. So just a little bit of baggage then.

The weird thing was though, the closer the time for my booking the more psyched I became. I kept re-reading the menu thinking this could be really good. Even arriving at the restaurant and being led into the maelstrom of a fully-booked City restaurant full of cheap suits didn’t put me off. The smiley, friendly service also gave me good vibes. Then I started eating the food and toute de suite I was un-psyched.

The first problem I noticed was the quality of the meat or rather the lack of it. From the Pork Scratchings (which came with a schmear of mole sauce of cinnamon-driven weirdness), through the Pigs Cheek, Baby Back Ribs and Pulled Pork, and finishing with the Burger nothing actually tasted like good Pork or decent Beef. The website only states that: “All of meat and fish is British from farms in Scotland, Yorkshire and Surrey where animal welfare and breeding are of the highest quality”. Which means. Precisely. Nothing.

The second problem was the quality of the cooking and preparation which was mediocre – I can’t say abysmal because I ate some of it. Dishes were going out with little or no quality control. That’s the only explanation for the chips that came with my burger that were limper than Larry “Shut That Door” Grayson’s wrist (one for the kids there).

A little patty of Crispy Pig Cheeks was oily and underseasoned, the accompanying salad too salty. The Piccalilli had soft veg and uncooked spices which caught at the back of the mouth.

Anyone expecting anything to evoke BBQ from the US is going to be seriously disappointed. The sauce on the ribs was 1D and inoffensive. The one that smothered the Pulled Pork was very sweet, the whole making me feel quite queasy.

Then there were odd little touches as well like the overuse of fresh coriander and the dish of assorted leaves with my Pulled Pork (for constructing a rudimentary summer roll perhaps?). And apparently a slaw in JO’s universe is over-acidulated red cabbage and white cabbage.

Finally, there was the cost. Even with 25% off, every plate (or should that be plank) of food reminded you how much it must have cost to get this show on the road. I’m still scratching my head over how they came up with £11 for a few ribs.

Still, this is the City, where there’s little discernment but plenty of wonga swilling around – when I arrived a couple were just starting on their second bottle of Krug – so I’m sure the owners won’t have any problem getting their money back. Indeed, JO and his partner were already talking of a roll-out before the place was even open which tells you where they’re coming from (making Garfunkel’s look like great value perhaps?)

I don’t usually give advice regarding restaurants in the blog. If you want to know what a place is like you should always go and try it for yourself. In Barbecoa’s case I’m going to break with tradition and say save your pennies. Jamie doesn’t need the money and you, gentle reader, could do without a lousy, overpriced meal.

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Blogger Gavin said...

Oliver/Lang restro is pants? Fair enough. But I can't agree about 1NC being a "Monstrous Carbuncle". While I admit to feeling a little proprietorial towards the site (I worked in the building it replaced and now work about 30 feet from its replacement) I find the thing to be quite stunning, its location next to one of the City's iconic landmarks just makes it more so.

Shops inside are rubbish.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 7:22:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh dear. This doesn't sound or look good. I've got a table booked for lunch tmrw - I was curious, and love BBQ ribs - which I will reluctantly keep, but it's useful to see the menu in advance and at least know what to avoid.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:43:00 am  
Anonymous James W said...

The menu reads quite well - despite a marked lack of ambition, there's plenty there I'd be tempted to order - but those prices are INSANE. My one experience of Jamie's Italian left me thinking he'd hit upon a franchise model that ticked a lot of boxes: quality ingredients, unfussy yet authentic dishes, reasonable price-point. This just screams greedy and half-arsed. Thanks for saving me a trip into the City.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 2:34:00 pm  
Anonymous C.Elder said...


And the ice cream??????

Thursday, November 11, 2010 2:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I heard about the pricing in this place I was shocked.
I reckon that their food margin on Burgers and Rib Eye steak must be 80-90% - the industry norm being more like 70-75% . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010 7:46:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi Gav,

Walking up Cheapside during the day I find it just shuts off all the light. I preferred it it when there was nothing there at all but I'm probably in a minority.


Thursday, November 11, 2010 8:47:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi Laura,

You get about 5, maybe 6 ribs and a crappy little salad for your £11 less 25% + service. For something so very humdrum that feels like a rip off to me.

Steak or chops may be a better way to go.


Thursday, November 11, 2010 8:50:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Ice Cream was gelato-like in texture and didn't have much of a taste.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 8:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Going With My Gut said...

The plank of ribs actually made me laugh out loud.

I heard from a reliable food friend that the hiddem gem of Barbercoa is actually the butcher shop downstairs of the restaurant. The prettiest butchery layout he's seen, he says, with quite a few Ginger Pig alums on the team. I wonder / hope that the animals match up.


Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:00:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

A few bites and it was all gone. I was told the starters were large but it's all relative I suppose.

If the butcher's any good it will be handy I suppose but I'll reserve judgement until I actually try it out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:58:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny. This really reminded me of going to the River Cafe. The best meal I had there was when I went on a half price deal and I could actually enjoy it without the gut feeling that I was being ripped off. This place sounds like if it was half the price it would feel more like what's it's worth? Was it a better £7 burger maybe?

Thursday, November 11, 2010 11:41:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mmm.... Dos Hermanos....For someone who claims to know food as well as you...would surely have picked up on the fact that..there is NO cinamon in those gorgeous pork Scratchings...cocoa and chilli prevail I'm afraid(and I was backed very graciously by the staff I might add).
Yes, the mark up might be high, however look at the Hawksmoor and Gaucho. Also I have heard real good things about Adam Perry Lang and his passion for exceptional and well aged meat. And certainly tasted the quality!
I had a great experience at Barbecoa. Sounds to me like you went in there trying to find anything possible to criticise.I see from your "review" how much you love Jamie - I personally thought a few things that could've been better, but I aired my constructive criticism to the management and feel confident that upon my return, my experience will blow away the last one...

Friday, November 12, 2010 1:52:00 am  
Anonymous gourmet traveller said...

Pretty much sums up my experience. I had 50% off when I visited, but even then it didn't feel like good value.

The starters were tiny. We shared three between two, the same ribs and (not) crispy pork as HP, as well as the hot wings salad - TWO measly wings on a few chunks of watermelon. The wings were dry, glazed with soy and honey, and not in the least bit spicy. Disappointing.

At least I ate I suppose. A friend went and his entire table waited an hour for mains. When he finally asked the waiter if they were on the way he replied "Probably not." He was right - they never came.

Friday, November 12, 2010 2:08:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i also worked in the old new change building and i loved the brief period when the skyline towards st pauls was visible. massive missed opportunity to put something decent there. this building looks like a bog standard mall/airport from anywhere in the world. mind you, it can't beat the listed heaxagonal building directly opposite which is truly ugly.

planks get on my nerves and are unhygienic.

that is surely a half portion of ribs - £6.50 at a push

Friday, November 12, 2010 9:00:00 am  
Anonymous Lidna said...

You do realise that by putting his save-the-fat-kids shows on tv he reaches millions, rather than hundreds, don't you?

Friday, November 12, 2010 9:06:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent review .

APL has a good reputation in the US and has cooked and been involved in a number of restaurants ,this place however is really dire including the steaks.

Meat is just a commodity product hence no real mention of provenance , breed etc. The Butchers downstairs is no gem either.

This is a Titanic but one never knows Aberdeen Steak Houses make money in high rent sites in central London and serve shit.

Friday, November 12, 2010 10:21:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

One at a time please!

In reverse order:

Lidna - Yes, sad isn't it? But I'm sure the publishers and his agent will be rubbing their hands together. Money goes to money as they say!

Anon 1 - I cannot disagree with anything you say.

GT - thanks, we are as one

Anon 2 - Thanks but I'm really not *that* knowledgeable! Appreciate the heads-up on the old mole as well - us super-tasters have to stick together and help each other out! You sound like you'll be going so often they'll need to give you your own loyalty card!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010 11:17:00 pm  
Blogger MCLoughlins Irish Bar and Restaurant Kyoto said...

Save the fat kids?Is this what he is trying to do at Barbecoa?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:57:00 am  
Anonymous C.Elder said...

I seem to remember the building was designed by some famous French architect?
Don't know if carbuncle is a French word....maybe "carboncle"?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3:23:00 pm  
Blogger Alicia Foodycat said...

Oh well - the food photographs better than it sounds! I loved the idea of this restaurant and the menu, but I haven't heard anything good from people who've ate there. I may have to go to the butcher and cook my own.

Sunday, November 21, 2010 7:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Hungryman said...

I thought it was 'ok' - maybe 5 out of 10.

I have eaten pulled pork that is 10 times better than this at a little stall near where i work on Friday lunchtime at St Katherine's Dock - and for only £5 (vs £16 here!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 3:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Chris & Sandie said...

We went to Barbecoa for my wife's 40th birthday. True, the prices are a little stiff (we're in London, right?) and it was a bit noisy (we're still in London, right?) but we thought the food was amazing and so was the wine. But what made it an unforgettable moment was the quality of the staff, from the booking to the delivering of the service which was extremely professional. Even though Barbecoa doesn't have a vegetarian-friendly menu, the staff managed to organise vegetarian options for my wife.
All in all, Barbecoa may not be the best restaurant ever, we had a nice diner, served by nice people.

Sunday, March 18, 2012 7:22:00 pm  

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