I have recently been invited to spend a fabulous city evening at the oh so acclaimed Jamie Oliver’s finest meat restaurant in London: Barbecoa. I was very much looking forward to discovering this steak’s temple not only because I love a proper high-quality meat restaurant but because this spot has become a reference within London’s fine dining addicts scene.
First of all, I must admit that as a southern French native I love steaks and proper locally sourced (especially organic) beef meet and any special, or regular, occasion is the perfect excuse for a thick cut of Sirloin, Rib-Eye or fillet steak.. with just a little bit of béarnaise sauce on the side.
Indeed, one of the most popular bistro dishes in France is the steak-frites or, even better entrecôte – frites (rib eye) and as we all know, in France we like meat medium rare (if not rare like a steak tartare). But I must tell you a secret, although I adore béarnaise sauce and I love ordering it in London with my native French accent (one of these rare moments where I feel cool being French), I have never tasted this kind of warm sauce in France before, I have only discovered it in London (and found it afterwards in touristy Paris). This is even more curious since I come from the Béarn, therefore I am a Béarnaise French (South-west France). Ok, sure, you can find jars of “sauce béarnaise” in French supermarkets like Carrefour or Auchan but this would be rather a mayonnaise type of condiment that we normally serve cold to dress cold meat, fish or salads.
Anyway, my point is that I am a big fan of high quality grass-fed beef meat, perfectly cooked steak restaurants and Barbecoa was the last “must-try” left on my London list.
When judging a restaurant I love bringing all the aspects into equation, when dining out I am looking for an experience not only for food (well, apparently I am a good cook and I enjoy shopping/cooking). So whether I have the most surprising street food in a local market or the most extravagant entrée in a Michelin star restaurant, I always look for the signature wow factor. This is, of course, my personal and subjective point of view and I understand most of people go to a restaurant for the menu and the food, not so much for the overall experience. I agree, but not when you are talking about a fine dining restaurant, to me it has to be worth. Et oui, I am difficult to please!
Barbecoa is located in the modern and prestigious One New Change, commonly referred as Saint Paul’s shopping center, in the City of London, just by Saint Paul’s cathedral. The restaurant is something very different and, somehow, confusing. I had previously seen a TV program featuring the butchery so I was not surprised when I discovered that the ground floor of the restaurant is a proper butchery with great meat pieces on display (you can actually buy meat). That certainly gives you an idea on how good your meat experience is going to be. Plus, I am very fond of Jamie Oliver’s eating philosophy and of his position towards healthy, local fresh British food. So far, everything was looking divine.
The restaurant itself is fantastic, very special and… different. I went after 7pm so I can only judge the dining area by night. The staff there is top-notch, friendly and nice but hyper professional with a high attention to detail. In terms of decoration, basically the whole dining area is enclosed in a window panel opening into Saint Paul’s cathedral and the city of London so expect nice views. Sophistication, views, candles in one hand but an open kitchen on the other hand make this place a great option for both meat connoisseurs and romantic seekers.
The main menu is simple, uncomplicated and very …meaty! I would not advise to go to Barbecoa if you are vegetarian or vegan. So now, the food. We did not order starters as we were a large group (I personally cannot help to have the 3 courses when dining out, but in this case I was the minority). However, the starter’s selection is very refined with a fair selection including salmon, Cornish crab, fried calamari and many more. Definitely, try the starters as they looked amazing.
Now, the meat. As I mentioned above, I have tried what people reckon are the best steak restaurants in London and I can now state Jamie’s Oliver Barbecoa is not to be ignored. I ordered a sirloin steak medium cooked. The meat was very tasty, very tender, cooked on the grill and the cut was very generous, served with a complimentary béarnaise sauce with a bbq twist (you can chose your sauce).
Those who ordered the fillet steak were also enchanted (and I am talking about South African meat connoisseurs), same critics regarding lamb chops. So, in terms of the quality, cooking technique and portions I would give a 10 out of 10 to this restaurant (we are talking about £36 for a fillet steak, £33 for a rib eye, £19 for lamb chops). However I felt very let down by the sides: overpriced (£5), small with nothing special about. So if you are hungry I would advise to order 2 sides each.
The wine list is amazing as well, so Barbecoa is a winner for those looking for an exceptional venue with out of this world steaks, wine and ambiance. That is what I told to myself when I saw the size and quality of the sides. The wine menu offers very well picked Argentian Malbec red wine and a rare to find Poully-Fumé with wine, delicious. My only criticism would be the by the glass selection, no Chilean or French options, but who cares when you can have the bottle!
Some of us felt a need for a sweet taste so we went for deserts and I was truly amazed. Most of steak restaurants focus on the meat narrowing the deserts selection to boring ice-cream bowls… but Jamie’s restaurant goes beyond and offers one of the best chocolate brownies I have tried. Of course you will also find a wide selection of ice-creams and sundaes but the specials are highly recommended (peanut butter cheesecake is also a must-try). Expect to pay around £8.50 each but it is totally worth in terms of presentation, innovation and, bien sur, taste!
Barbecoa certainly delivers what is expected: fantastic meat, a luxurious experience, impressive views, top-notch service, incredible drinks menu.. and one of the best British food experience in London. Merci Jamie!