I’m a huge fan of Israeli cuisine and I’m so happy to see that the food is becoming more a part of the London scene. First the form of The Palomar, which I fell in love with last year for its incredible Kubaneh bread and delicious Josper grilled dishes, and now The Barbary.
You could easily walk past The Barbary in Covent Garden with its understated entrance and narrow dining room but trust me…don’t. This is one place that you definitely don’t want to miss. The tiny space of twenty-four seats with counter-style dining and a casual no reservations policy belies some of the most sensational food I’ve tried this year. Like its sister restaurant, The Palomar, The Barbary draws inspiration from Israel, the Mediterranean and North Africa for the menu of sharing places and light bites. The name of the restaurant actually reflects the influences from the Barbary Coast and the area along the Atlas Mountains where the Berbers settled in the 16th Century, a place infamous for the Barbary Pirates!
I had two lovely ladies joining me for lunch today the first being Liesl Lamare, an incredibly innovative wedding planner who has recently relaunched her business under the name Lamare London. My second companion is Karen Cinnamon who writes the ground-breaking Jewish wedding blog, Smashing the Glass, a site that bucks the trend of ‘paint by numbers’ Jewish weddings. It’s a small world in the Jewish community and I’ve seen several old friends have their weddings featured on Karen’s blog!
Back to the food and we started with the Moroccan ‘cigarettes’ pictured above. From the name I’d expected small, dainty tubes but we were very pleased with the generous portion of these beautifully crisp fried pastry rolls with a spicy cod and preserved lemon filling and a yoghurt and harissa dip.
Also from the snacking menu we chose the delicious pitta pockets stuffed with a rare beef mix; very tasty but quite heavy for a snack.
Get the naan e Barberi, just trust me. Get it. We had two between the three of us but I could have easily polished off two by myself it was so good! It’s a lot like Indian naan bread that we’re used eating in this country but this type actually originates from Persia and has a delicious glaze of baking soda making the texture even crisper and giving the bread a golden colour. The dining counter actually surrounds the kitchen and so we could watch as the chefs prepared the naan in the clay oven before drizzling it with olive oil.
Of course you can’t have a delicious flat bread without dips and we ordered a very tasty pumpkin and almond mix and a delicious baba ghanoush with pine nuts. Baba ghanoush is one of my favourite things ever and The Barbary’s version was absolutely perfect.
I loved the Josper grilled cauliflower at The Palomar and went ahead and ordered the vegetable dish here. It’s prepared differently here and the menu describes it as ‘Jaffa-style’ which means its deep-fried and covered with tomatoes, lemon and coriander and it’s every bit as good as the dish I fell in love with at the sister restaurant. Though deep-fried it’s still very light and you can still pretend to yourself you’re eating a healthy vegetable dish.
I know the halloumi is the star of this dish but I personally couldn’t get enough of the peppers, they were just do perfectly seasoned and piquant. The cheese had a beautiful char on it and the combination was ideal.
Unintentionally we ordered nearly all vegetarian dishes so I decided to get my fish-fix with salmon cooked ‘Pharaoh-style.’ It was a really well cooked dish, ever so slightly rare and with a hint of honied sweetness that wasn’t overwhelming or cloying.
As a food lover and blogger I love trying new places so it’s rare I leave somewhere already planning when I can come and share this fantastic place with Mr S. I will be back to try the entire rest of the menu and definitely another naan or too!!
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16 Neal’s Yard