Pit smoked baby back ribsMore pictures
Barbecoa is a joint restaurant by Jamie Oliver and American BBQ expert Adam Perry Lang. Described as providing ‘a completely unique grilling concept in London’ the initial reviews were full of ‘must try harders’ so having been open for a year and in the mood for a bit of BBQ action, and as it now seems much easier to get a table, I popped in for a dinner to see what all the ‘fuss’ was really all about.
I’m always a little bit cautious of the Jamie Oliver branded restaurants as they seem to focus more on simple cooking done well, and while that’s all well and good I can do that pretty well myself at home; also my initial joy at the ‘Jamie-isms’ plastered all around the menu, decor and staff lips have finally waned. I was therefore rather pleased that this didn’t really feel like a Jamie restaurant at all, not a ‘pukka’ in sight. The staff were all very keen to entertain, we received endless chat, amusing stories and a visual tour of the various BBQ’ing implements in the kitchen – this is probably as ‘Jamie’ as it gets and thankfully that’s the one bit of the brand that will forever work as they did their very best to ensure that everyone has a fun dining experience, and indeed we did.
Unfortunately thinking back on things the quality of the food is rather variable and the great service might well have papered over a couple of the cracks. Take the starters – there are a choice of 12 and considering the way the restaurant is marketed I found it a bit strange that only around half of them had any evidence of having seen flame or any of the cooking styled paraded before us as we entered. Ella ordered the baby back ribs and these were a damn good rib – juicy, falling off the bone and covered in a sticky smoked sauce and while the baby ribs aren’t the biggest with around 8 of them to chew through an awesome starter. But unfortunately the other one failed to live up to expectations.
When comparing the two dishes side by side the bourbon chicken wings look very pale in comparison. 5 rather anaemic looking wings, burnt in places with a very minimal sauce coating and just chucked on a plate. It was not the BBQ nirvana I was hoping for. They didn’t taste awful but they didn’t taste great and again in comparison after seeing the ribs starter the only thought you’re going to have in your mind is envy. I know restaurants have their signature dishes (and here the ribs were one) but it has been a while since I can remember such a stark contrast in dishes that we’ve ordered.
Moving on, and again wanting to only sample dishes from the Texas Pit Smoker (which gave us just a choice of 3) we got some pulled pork with waffle (another restaurant signature) and the short rib of beef. The pork and waffle had a good taste but was rather a mess of meat and sauce; not sure how authentic a serving this would be but I would always prefer to have the sauce on the side as a lot of the smokey taste from the cooking was cancelled out with it being smothered in sauce from the start. The beef rib was not quite on the level of the pork ribs unfortunately, it fell off the bone easily enough but lacked a lot of the juice, ironically I think it could have done with a bit of BBQ sauce.
The menu is very much what you see is what you get so you’ll need a couple of sides – the duck fat cooked chips were brought out before being taken away by our waiter to later be replaced with a fresh batch, it was a nice touch but still didn’t provide us with amazing chips. The beans with burnt ends were nice and smokey and provided some extra sauce where needed but the ends weren’t the most prominent or flavourful.
One thing that did surprise me was how deceptively large the meal was. A starter and a main was all I needed to be full to bursting (maybe I’m getting too old for this) which was a real shame as the desserts looked pretty damn good. A mixture of delights such as apple and custard brioche, layered chocolate brownie and peanut butter ice-cream sundae all actually sound rather ‘Jamie’ in their simplicity but regardless do all sound rather bloody amazing but alas I can’t say anything about how good they really are as I think even one mouthful would have recreated the final restaurant scene from Monty Pythons Meaning of Life.
Barbecoa had me in mixed emotions – had a great time but didn’t enjoy the food as much as I might have hoped. For all the cooking techniques on display the results tasted above average but nowhere near the standards of Pitt Cue, or indeed from what I can gather similar places out in the states where people might be more critical of ‘bad BBQ’. Thinking back to the opening quote I found, ‘a completely unique grilling concept in London’, this might be the rub – the CONCEPT is rather unique in London so hopefully as places like Pitt Cue grow and become more successful they might buck their ideas up and fix the consistency and cooking flaws to provide both amazing service and food. I would certainly come back for that.Tweet