The Barbary is an extremely popular restaurant by the team behind the Palomar, which I have yet to try. Inspired by the countries that span the Barbary coast, from North Africa to Israel, the menu is both eclectic and interesting and located in Neal’s Yard, in seven dials, a short walk from Leicester square or Covent Garden Tube stations.
The restaurant itself, has 24 covers, the bulk of which are based around a horseshoe bar, with an open kitchen in the middle, where you can see the food being prepared. If you can (depending on queues), try and sit on the left side of the bar facing the kitchen. It is worth it for the chats with the chefs, the theatrical cooking and general fun buzz in the kitchen.
We were lucky enough to get there early and there was plenty of seats available so we took our pick facing the open kitchen, and in close proximity to the chefs so we could have a banter while we ate our food.
The dishes are of a sharing nature, and so we selected a fair few to try. For drinks, Amit went for a glass of white wine, while I went for the Orange wine, which was stunning. It is not made from oranges in case you were wondering 😉 It is simply an orange coloured wine, but very delicious and refreshing.
We had a good laugh with Head Chef Eyal Jagermann (previously of the Palomar), and his team. They really are an awesome team, full of fun, laughter but making the most amazing food!
The decor is simple but elegant, with dark counters, a sepia map for a placemat, menus on cards and bar stools all around. Not the most comfortable of seating but it is worth it for the food alone!
I had heard a lot about the Naan e Barbari (£3.50) and it was the first dish we ordered as we had seen it being made, from our position at the counter. The dough is first slapped against the side of the clay oven with a muslin covered pad and then cooked. The bread is so light and dreamy and tastes amazing. Amit and I were so tempted to order another but had to restrain ourselves.
It had a generous drizzle of olive oil and garlic and just perfect.
I am an Aubergine fanatic and I ordered the baba ganoush (£4), which is a lovely smokey aubergine and tahini dip, garnished with parsley and pine nuts. It was the perfect accompaniment for the naan.
On the Nishnushim (snacks) menu, Amit had been intrigued by the Moroccan Cigars (£7.50), and so we ordered these. Filled with a mixture of cod, preserved lemon (which Chef Eyal said was the key ingredient), and coriander and encased in a crispy fried filo pastry rolled to mimic a cigar these were just so delicious. We dipped each cigar in a yoghurt dip which had a generous helping of harissa, and the two went together superbly. The dip was so delicious we also dipped other dishes in it!
The Msabacha Chickpeas (£4.00) arrived next and had a lovely zingy flavour. I haven’t eaten chickpeas in this way before and I was a massive fan. This is a different take on hummus, where the chickpeas are retained whole rather than mashed and I loved it.
The Jerusalem Bagel (£4.00), which is studded with toasted sesame seeds, and has a light fluffy interior is AMAZING. The best part about the food at the Barbary, is it all goes with each other, so this went perfectly with the Baba Ganoush too. It was served warm and there is something about freshly baked, warm bread – I just can’t stop eating it!
It was accompanied with a parcel full of Za’tar, (a blend of herbs, toasted sesame seeds, and salt), which you could use either for sprinkling or dipping, but you almost didn’t need it as the bagel was so flavoursome already.
We were already getting full but determined to plough on. The menu is split into Baking and Grinding, Land, Sea and Earth. I chose the Roasted Aubergine ‘Sharabik’ (£7.50) from the Earth menu. This classic aubergine and chickpeas had the added twist of raspberries, which gave an interesting contrast in flavours, which was very enjoyable.
Amit ordered from the Land section, and went for the Chicken Msachen (£9.00), which was incredible. The chicken is marinated in yoghurt and spices for a day and then grilled, so the flavours come through in every bite. He would have liked the portion to be slightly bigger though, however, this was his favourite dish off the whole menu.
Dessert time. The best time! And what a treat this was. I had wanted to go for the Halva Ice cream, but Chef Eyal strongly recommended the Hashcake (£7.00 and no its not what you think) and Knafeh (£8.00). The dessert section of the menu is aptly named ‘Heaven.’
It was a first for me on both dishes, as I hadn’t tried either before and and the menu didn’t list the ingredients so each first bite was a surprise.
Starting with the Knafeh, first impression was OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS GOODNESS followed by, Amit saying is this melted Mozzarella cheese? I said no don’t be silly and had to eat my words as Chef Eyal said it was!
The Knafeh is a fried pastry cake made with a mixture of noodle, nuts, honey and mozzarella and topped with juicy raspberries. It is seriously so good.
The Hashcake, is made from pistachios and dates and served with a dollop of cream and is equally moreish. We also had a shot with Chef Eyal, which I forgot to snap, but it was delicious whatever it was!
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the food and service was faultless. It is also one of few restaurants to have the service included in the price, and I had already thought that the prices were really reasonable. What also impressed me is they didn’t charge for the water, which I thought was a lovely touch.
The only downside is that as word gets out about the amazing and delicious food, the venue will get more queues of starving diners and so get in there quick! They operate a no reservations policy but if you had to wait, I would definitely say the food is worth waiting for. I know I will be back to try the rest of the food!
The Barabary is located in 16 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, WC2H 9DP