Test Driving The Barbary - Barbary Coast hospitality in Neal's Yard

barbary1Roasted aubergine Sharabik

So what can you tell us about The Barbary?

It's the much-anticipated new opening from the team who brought us The Palomar. The head chef is Eyal Jagermann who used to be head sous chef at Palomar. And you'll probably see a few more familiar faces with several of the team from the original tipping up here.

Where is it?

Enter Neal's Yard from the Short's Garden entrance beside the Neals Yard Dairy and you'll find The Barbary on the right-hand side. The room itself is a feat of design, squeezing in a horseshoe shaped kitchen counter dining bar with further counters along the wall for those waiting for a seat.

barbary2Pata negra neck

Where should we meet friends for a drink first? 

If you can get a seat there (we never can) nearby 10 Cases is a good option, or Compagnie du Vins Surnaturels which is just across the way in Neal's Yard. And we've always liked the bar at the Covent Garden Hotel.

Where should I sit?

There are just 24 seats - the best comparison would be Barrafina. Turn up, enjoy a drink and something off the waiting snacks menu (a nice little addition) while you will someone to leave. There is some standing counter space on either side of the room where you can have these snacks. The good news is that there's a pretty fast turnaround - this is a good place to hit for a few drinks and plates.

Or you could - like us - hunker down for the evening and try as much as you can manage to stuff in.

barbary4The flaming lamb cutlets

And the food?

If by some miracle you don't have to queue, you're still going to want to try some things off the Nishnushim (snacks and appetisers) menu. Most particularly the Moroccan cigars of brik pastry with salt cod (£7.50) and the Arayes (£7.50) - filled pita pockets stuffed with lamb and beef before being finished off on the grill and served with a tahini dip.

The main menu kicks off with a Baking and Grinding section (bread and dips), the A-L-Esh section is divided into Land (Meat), Sea (fish and shellfish) and Earth (vegetables), finishing with Heaven (dessert).

barbary5Chicken msachen

We roamed pretty extensively around the menu before we wobbled off into the night. Here are some of our Don't Miss dishes

  • The Naan (£3.50) for the Barbary signature bread, drizzled with olive oil and garlic, all bubbly and chewy and a serious contender to our favourite naan shop Baban's on Blackstock Road. Perfect for dipping into the baba ghanosh.
  • Chicken msachen (£9) - a firm favourite of chef Eyal who marinates these thighs for a day in yoghurt and spices before grilling it.
  • Cauliflower Jaffa Style (£6.50) - we've eaten a serious amount of cauliflower in London over the past few years. This may be the best one yet.
  • Roasted aubergine Sharabik (£7.50) - eyes may be raised over the addition of raspberries to this aubergine and chickpea dish, but we liked it.
  • The lamb cutlets (£14), which come with the added theatrical extra of flaming herbs 

barbary6The Hashcake

Do not (and this will be hard) eat so much that you have no room for dessert. We won't spoil Ayel's patter for the speech he gives on delivering this course to you, but you are not going to want to come away without having tried the Hashcake of pistachio and dates (£7) and the Knafeh (£8) - a fried pastry cake made with a mixture of noodles with nuts, honey and mozzarella.

To drink

A relatively brief wine list, split into whites, orange, rose and red starts at £5.50 for a glass - with a lot available by the glass and carafe as well as the bottle. Our bottle of South African Mother Rock White was from the higher ends of the list at £53 but was a versatile wine going with everything we had.

And you may also have a shot or two with the chefs..

barbary3Pouring shots with the chefs

Overall thoughts:

Slightly more restrained in vibes than The Palomar, there's a lot to like about The Barbary - not least the fact that everyone dining here gets the full experience (unlike those lucking out in the dining room at The Palomar). The young team here really project Hospitality with a capital H - they're here to make sure you have the best time. And with that combo of great food, flowing booze and one of the best soundtracks we've heard in a while, they deliver. The only problem is going to be getting a seat here when word gets out. Sorry.

The Barbary is 16 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP. Find out more about The Barbary

Hot Dinners was invited to The Barbary. Prices were correct at the time of writing.