November saw the opening of One New Change and the eagerly awaited Barbecoa restaurant, Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang’s new barbeque venture, one of the most anticipated and publicised openings this year. It’s strange isn’t it? That you look forward to something for so long, and after the event, you can’t really identify anything that was truly memorable about an experience. I never thought I would say that about Barbecoa.
The waiter asked us half way through the meal if everything was fine, and it was, just fine. Had he asked if it was outstanding, memorable, exciting and different, which I will talk about for weeks, I truly couldn’t say “yes”. Let me tell you why.
We were shown to one of the ‘cage’ tables in the far corner of the restaurant, with views over St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s important to say that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the experience, it was as our server indicated, fine. The staff were pleasant, carrying out their duties efficiently but I guess they should do, given the army of people that were there.
We shared plates for the starter, trying the pork scratchings, pig cheeks and baby ribs along with a mixed bread order. All the items were well prepared and tasty and the pork scratchings with the Mole sauce were particularly intriguing. The ribs were as you would expect - stunning, smoky and tender, like many other good rib outlets.
The main courses were delivered in reasonable time but they caused some amusement with my assembled guests given the significant fuss that had been made about how the meat was to be cooked. The short rib which was advised as being medium rare, had clearly been cooked for a significant number of hours to ensure it’s wonderful texture and flavour. Clearly a misunderstanding.
The lamb chop, again described as medium rare, sadly lacked any pink soft flesh but was still flavourful. Given the nature of this restaurant this was quite surprising. The assorted accompaniments included creamed spinach, mash, fries and broccoli which were all well delivered and presented in individual dishes. All the meals were served on heavy stoneware plates, which were a welcome difference from standard hotelware.
It would be wrong to say that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the experience, except that it wasn’t really “an experience”. There were many opportunities throughout the meal to provide points of difference, but they were not there. Overall, a perfectly pleasant lunchtime meal but at £50 a head, including water and a small amount of wine, certainly not the best value I have ever seen for two courses.
In terms of ratings, we were looking forward to a five-star experience. It wasn’t quite there. But I am sure, once the new opening issues are ironed out, it will become a ‘must do’ venue. We will definitely go back and try again.