It’s taken us a year to make it to The Barbary, but it’s been on our mind ever since it opened its doors in Neal’s Yard last June. The Palomar’s little sister, which has just 22 seats around a zinc-topped horseshoe counter or ‘kitchen bar’ as it’s known in-house, is snug – not least for the heroic staff who manage to glide and weave around each other in an entertaining ballet. And just like The Palomar this is a really fun place to eat and people watch – it would also be a fabulous place for a date with it’s buzzy atmosphere and ice-breakingly close quarters. But what most people come here for is the delicious Berber-inspired menu.
As the name suggests the focus here is on food that originates along the strip of North Africa, from Morocco and Algeria to Tunisia and Libya, where Berbers settled in the 16th century. The menu is compact – just like the restaurant – but it’s no less impactful for that. We started with delicious naan bread straight from the tandoor oven which can be dunked into all sort of unctuous starters – baba ganoush, Msabacha chickpea stew or delicious roasted beetroot and labneh. Mains are then divided into earth (grilled halloumi and peppers or delicious spiced and roasted cauliflower), sea and land and, of those fish and meat dishes, it’s the Pata Negra neck of pork that is the must-have here. This meltingly good cut is rubbed with ras-el-hanout and then char-grilled and served with a sweet date syrup and confit garlic. It is sublime. One of our favourite things at The Palomar is the fantastic fattoush salad and predicatably it’s just as good here – a colourful, crunchy and piquant contrast to the richer mains.
We were too full to do the pudding menu justice – our neighbour’s kanafeh looked utterly delicious – but we did manage a serving of a zingy refreshing strawberry sorbet. Because of its bijou size and layout the Barbary has so far only accepted walk-ins but now you can book for groups up to four at either midday or 5pm. Alternatively just take your chances – waiting diners cluster around the edges or in windows and that is no hardship – it gives you more time to take in the buzzy scene.