The Barbary: the place to be in London
The smell of lamb, the fire crackling on the octopus skin, the marks of the oily bagels on the paper mats... the trendy music that would make you dance if not busy eating, the smiles on the cooks' faces...
The Barbary is London and London is 'berber' with its melting pot of cultures, smells, colors, attitude.
The land of Berbers in London is hosted at the number 16 of Neil's Yard, a strangely quiet alley in the crowded and touristic Covent Garden.
The owners are the same of Palomar, few streets away in Soho, restaurant with a glorious Michelin award past, that combines Jerusalem cuisine with a modern and trendy touch.
The Barbary does a step back compared to the fanciness of the Palomar but brings back in the authenticity of the Israeli food combined with spicy harissa and make to order naan.
The menu is indeed full of middle eastern references, from the baba ghanoush to the fattoush, but the Jews tradition leaves a strong fingerprint!
Unmissable is the ashkenazi chicken liver: livers are gently cooked in schmaltz (chicken fat), finely chopped to the consistency of a pate and served with spring onions and mustard on a side.
A clean and powerful taste, perfect to be accompanied by the freshly baked Jerusalem bagel and its small paper bag of spices. The bagel is still warm when you take it in your hands, oily and wonderfully perfumed by its sesame seeds.
Despite the tempting smell of the grilled lamb chops, I opted for the octopus mashawsha: the octopus is braised on the grill and served with mashawsha hummus, typical from Galilee in the north of Israel and made out of chickpeas that are broken before cooking.
The octopus resulted a bit overcooked probably because the cook got a bit distracted by the 24 cheerful faces surrounding the open kitchen of The Barbary... I didn't mind it too much in this case!
A glass of Chateau de Montifaud Pineau des Charentes (80% cognac) and a slice of ashcake with whipped cream to conclude the meal: an oatmeal based cake made with pistachios (from Bronte) resulting quite sweet at the beginning but getting milder bite after bite.
A perfect conclusion for a great evening!