BARBECOA: MONSTROUS CARBUNCLE
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.