The Barbary

Restaurants, North African Covent Garden
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)
73 Love It
Save it
 (© Andy Parsons)
1/6
© Andy Parsons
 (© Andy Parsons)
2/6
© Andy Parsons
 (© Andy Parsons)
3/6
© Andy Parsons
 (© Andy Parsons)
4/6
© Andy Parsons
 (© Andy Parsons)
5/6
© Andy Parsons
 (© Andy Parsons)
6/6
© Andy Parsons

A 24-seat counter bar restaurant in Neal’s Yard from the people behind Soho’s The Palomar.

So you thought you loved the Palomar. You thought you’d be faithful and true. But that was before you met little sis the Barbary. It’ll make you want to quit your job, pack your bags, and run away into the sunset together.

The Barbary, you see, takes everything that’s good about the Palomar but ditches the bits that don’t quite work (like the fact that the ‘fun seats’ up at the counter are also the most cramped; or the fact that the raw bar is the weakest link on the otherwise stellar modern Israeli menu).

At The Barbary, all the stools are arranged at 24-seat horseshoe shaped counter bar. Down one wall, there’s a standing counter, where they’ll feed you moreish bar snacks (like deep-fried pastry ‘cigars’ filled with cod, lemon & Moroccan spices) while you wait for a seat. And if the queue spills outside, you’ll find yourself in pedestrian-only, full-of-character Neal’s Yard. As places to loiter go, it’s not too shabby.

Oh but the food, the food. Where the Palomar is intentionally progressive, looking to push the boundaries of ‘Israeli’ food, the Barbary looks to the past. The team, led by Tel Aviv-born chef Eyal Jagermann (ex-Palomar), have scoured the wider region, travelling down the eponymous Barbary coast (the stretch of north Africa from modern-day Morocco to modern-day Egypt) to revive the dishes that have informed their own culinary heritage. The signature ‘naan e beber’, for instance, is made to an ancient recipe for leavened bread, with just four ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and yeast). The flattened, kneaded dough is slammed into a fiercely hot tandoor for just a minute or two, quickly re-emerging all fluffy and blistered. When you can get this excited about bread, you know great things are about to happen.

Great things like the octopus. Slow-braised with oranges and bay leaves in its own juices, the chefs wait until it’s soft enough to fall apart before slinging it on the coal-fired robata. Silky on the inside, charred on the outside, I’m declaring these the best tentacles in town. Equally tender and smoky was the chicken ‘msachen’, a dish you get at Israeli parties. At The Barbary, the skin-on thigh meat is marinaded in a yoghurt, sumac and baharrat (a Syrian/Egyptian spice mix) for a full 24 hours before cooking. It’s a bit of a theme: everything here is made from scratch and with care. For dessert, order the knafeh – a sandwich of finely-shredded filo pastry filled with white mozzarella and goats’ cheese. Pan-fried until it’s crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, it’s then sprinkled with roasted pistachio nuts. Try pressing it gently with a fork and watch it ooze puddles of clarified butter. This is not food for the uptight, but for people who live life to the full. On my midweek visit, every seat was taken by 6.15pm, the atmosphere was electric, the air filled with charcoal smoke, music and laughter. The Barbary: a place to fall joyously, head over heels, lightning-bolts-R-us in love with.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: The Barbary
Contact:
Address: 16 Neal's Yard
London
WC2H 9DP
Opening hours: Tue-Fri noon-3pm & 5-10pm; Sat-Sun noon-9pm
Transport: Tube: Covent Garden
Do you own this business?
To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

4.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|9
2 people listening
Ed S
tastemaker

Gosh, what a little gem! We've been twice and it is fantastic. All the food is themed around the Barbary coast which spans the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. The tapas-style dishes are full of flavour and easy to share, try the flatbreads and dips.

The style and layout of this beauty is almost as fantastic as the food. I loved the bar/eating counter focused around the kitchen at the centre. You can watch the chefs make your food and then keep adding what you see to your order.

A must-go, but turn up only because this fair system is a no-booking-zone.

Bonnie W
Tastemaker

The Barbary is located in the colourful and vibrant Neal’s Yard and all of the seats are situated at a horseshoe bar surrounding the open kitchen. It’s fun to be able to watch as the chefs prepare each small plate with care. Due to seating arrangements I feel that this restaurant is best suited to dinner for two since it would probably be hard to visit with anyone two seats away. All of the dishes that we ordered were delicious and I wanted second portions of them all at the end - not because I wasn’t full but because they all tasted amazing. The only exception would be the hashcake which I ordered for dessert, it was quite dense but not as nutty as I was expecting. Other than that the pumpkin dip, sesame bread, fattoush salad, halloumi and everything else were great. We mainly ordered vegetarian dishes which all came out quite promptly but there was quite a delay between these and the monk fish. I guess if you were ordering more meat dishes there would probably be more flow to the meal. 

By 6:00 on a Monday night there were still a few seats left but I would expect later on in the week that the restaurant would already be full by this time. The Barbary offers complimentary still or sparkling water and an optional £1 donation is added to the bill for the Street Smart charity which I thought were both nice touches. Service was attentive, prices were fair and the flavours were fantastic - this is definitely somewhere I will be going back to! 

Saint

In my view the best restaurant I've eaten in London for the last 5 years at least. The Pata Negra Pork and Grilled Octopus are unbelievably good. They also make the best naan breads. The informal friendly atmosphere also adds to the whole amazing food experience.

Mel C

I hate queueing.  What I hate even more is having to queue for a new restaurant only to be a bit disappointed.  Thankfully not only was I not disappointed wiht The Barbary, I would happily queue for 2 hours if it means eating that food again!



The restaurant is tiny, 24 covers on bar stools around the open kitchen.  There are a few stools along the wall that are for drinks while waiting for a table.  We were lucky, arrived at 6:15 and only ended up waiting for 20minutes, I think the maitre'd took a liking to us!


We sat down at the bar and were soon chatting to a waitress about the menu and asking her advice on what to get.  The menu is split into land, sea and earth and some smaller plates.  As is the norm nowadays, it's all sharing.


We had some cod filled moroccan cigars, arayes (lamb kofta cooked inside a mini pitta), swordfish, yoghurt marinated chicken, sirloin steak with what I can only describe as dijon mustard jam and a few other dishes too.


For me there were 2 stars of the night.  The aubergine, charred on the grill with a nutty tahini sauce, chillis and herbs, seems quite normal but then they threw in some flaked almonds and fresh raspberries.  Raspberries, tahini and aubergine really should not go but I am never going to eat aubergine without raspberries again!  It was a magical combination.


The other star was one of the desserts, we had knafeh which is an arabic staple of goats cheese and mozarella in kadaif pastry and syrup.  That wasn't the star.  The star was the "hashcake" presumably named as it's that good and potentially addictive.  This dense, sticky pistachio sponge comes with a dollop of whipped cream and a crumbly pastry crust.  It is delicious.


In summary, go to The Barbary, queue as long as it takes. I promise you it's worth it.

Dee
Tastemaker

I visited Barbary a couple of weeks ago , half an hour before their closing time at lunch hours and did not have to queue at all. I sat at one of the seats at the bar, which I think is a great way to experience the dynamics of a restaurant and it for sure allows for a better and more attentive service.From the dishes I ordered, the Moroccan cigars with yogurt sauce were saved by the yogurt sauce, the Zhug - pickles platter was to the point and the lamb cutlet zuzu was  outstanding with succulent lamb meat and delicious yogurt sauce and the pickles complimented it perfectly. I've found the highly anticipated Knafeh too buttery for my taste: but overall Barbary left a very good impression with great and friendly service and delicious take on east Mediterranean cuisine. 

Chesca R
Tastemaker

First things first stop reading and go get in the queue. Now you are queuing patiently you are in for a real mouthwatering eye popping treat. The place only seats 20 something people at a time and they are all at the bar face first in the cooking action. This is not the place for groups but would be an amazing date venue. The staff are superb at explaining the menu so I will leave the description to them, just make sure you leave space for pudding. 

GT
Staff Writer

Tucked away in Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, this new restaurant is a buzzy and intimate place with exceptional food. Get there early - you can't book - and grab one of the twenty-odd seats at the counter. From here you can watch the staff fishing out flatbreads from the clay oven or flaming octopus on the grill. The menu needs a bit of explaining (it's on the minimalist side) but when I went the staff did a sterling job of describing the dishes, and as it's made up of small plates you can order loads and try them all! Don't forget dessert and in particular the amazing knafeh - it's a melt-in-your-mouth treat. Go now, before the crowds do! 

Becky J

The Barbary is THE go to place in London right now. Brilliant food, fresh, colorful, middle eastern dishes that are just mouthwatering. 5 stars easy!