The streets of Piccadilly were free of cars this evening as Londoners stopped to admire the installations and light shows of the Lumiere London festival. It was a fitting scene from which to enter Barbecoa Piccadilly, Jamie Oliver’s steakhouse restaurant brand. He describes the restaurant, which also has a location in St Paul’s, as a place that “brings beautiful slow-cooked, dry-aged meat, amazing cocktails, great wine and probably the most outrageous desserts in London, to life”. So, I, alongside my meat-loving dining partner, was excited to see what was on offer.
As soon as we arrived, the care and attention put into making Barbecoa look as high-end as possible was clear. It was like walking into 1940s New York, with art deco chandeliers and leather banquettes. It’s refreshing in a time when stripped back, industrial chic is in vogue. At the same time, it was welcoming; there’s no dress code so you can relax and enjoy the smoky delights on offer.
And the restaurant is passionate about its history. We were sat on table 49, which has a “reserved” notice permanently stuck to the oak table. It was used to save the table for an old Baron who visited the site when it was a French restaurant at the turn of the 20th century, a fact that came to light when the reserved notice, along with other documents were uncovered when workmen were renovating the building ahead of Barbecoa’s opening last year.
Our waiter, Alex, was fantastic; he knew the food (and drinks!) menu back-to-front. We began with “nibbles” – beef croquettes with a smoked chilli mayo and cornbread with nduja and smoked crème fraiche – don’t overlook the latter. It’s also important to point out that the kitchen has a tandoor oven especially for the naan bread with toasted spices and whipped butter. We didn’t have them, but they’re a must-have next time we visit.
The starters offer a healthy split of meat, fish and vegetarian options. We had sticky ribs with a smoky barbecue glaze, apple & kohlrabi slaw. The balance was just right as the sharpness of the slaw cut through the soft, rich meat. The sea bass ceviche with pickled melon, fermented red chilli and ruby grapefruit was a highlight – the citrus was a welcome accompaniment and the fennel was a refreshing addition. It was the perfect precursor for a meat-filled main course.
I chose the rib eye steak for my main – maybe I was subconsciously trying to keep it as simple and as elegant as the surroundings. It was perfectly cooked on a robata grill and accompanied by a rich bourbon and peppercorn sauce. My partner opted for the 16-hour smoked short rib. Coated in a thick and sticky cider glaze, it dropped off the bone – perfect to scoop up with the creamy Irish mash, while the gooseberry ketchup added a much welcome acidity. And if you’re looking for a side, I recommend the broccoli. Soaked in miso and topped with almonds, it’s another fantastic take on an already delicious and versatile veg.
There are plenty of ways to finish your meal at Barbecoa. If you’re not in the mood for anything sweet, then why not peruse the seemingly infinite number of whiskeys on offer? The Barbecoa Blazer – apple and cinnamon buffalo trace bourbon set ablaze, rolled with orange peel, maple syrup, bitters and served warm in a glass laced with Laphroaig – is a show-stopper and is made in front of you.
The highlight of the dessert menu is the “Snickersphere”, a salted caramel and peanut-flavoured ice cream delight covered in chocolate – but there’s a varied menu to choose from, particularly for chocolate lovers.
Tonight the eerily quiet streets of London harked back to a golden age, of art, of style and of dining. All three are alive and well in Barbecoa.
Barbecoa – Piccadilly
194 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EX