The Barbary, Neals Yard, WC2H

Having visited twice, we know all too well that this is one of the busiest restaurants in London. With a no booking policy it’s best to arrive early as by the time we’d finished our meal on our second visit, it was 8:30pm and there were about 10-15 people waiting! Now given that there are only 24 seats in this restaurant, you can imagine how long that queue may take.

The fact that there are only 24 seats is what makes this place so special – an horseshoe shaped bar around the kitchen where you can watch your dishes being prepared by the very excellent kitchen team. All four of the team were in good spirits; dancing, singing and smiling while creating your expertly crafted dishes. On top of that, our waitress for the evening was very helpful and succinct in explaining the menu to us.

The Barbary takes inspiration from the Barbary Coast, an area where the Berber people settled and spanned different countries including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Therefore the menu reflects these countries in the ingredient choices on offer with each dish that you choose.

Heading over to the restaurant at 5:45pm meant that there wasn’t a queue and we could enjoy a long overdue beer after a hard weeks work. The Maître D was very friendly and let us have our drinks before sitting down and introduced us to our waitress for the evening. As stated above, she was great and let us know what’s on offer on the menu. It is split into sections: Snacks, Baking & Grinding, Land, Sea, Earth and Heaven. To start we had the Arayes – which were little pitta pockets that were stuffed with incredibly tasty lamb that was spicy and charred to perfection. Balancing this out was yoghurt and a splash of harissa. We also couldn’t resist sampling the Halloumi chips. Served with a light dipping oil they were very moreish indeed. We were then told to order 1 bread each (Nan-e barbari) and 2 dips – we had to get the famous Baba Ghanoush as well as the newly added Sea bass Tartare. Both self-explanatory and both excellent for different reasons. The Baba Ghanoush had aubergines that were smoked to perfection and again seasoned extremely well. The Sea bass Tartare was so delicately created but packed a punch of flavour with fresh coriander, and more yoghurt to take the edge off. Next up came the Cauliflower Jaffa Style that was a fiery looking dish that had deep fried cauliflower florets soaked in amazing North African spices. Who knew that cauliflower could be this tasty? Following this came the Monkfish Chermoula, our favourite dish. Perfectly smoked and spiced monkfish on a bed of more harissa but used completely differently to the lamb snack we ate. Finally came the last dish before dessert: the Pata Negra Neck. This piece of meat is not usually revered but here it was a buttery piece of pork neck, ras el hanout, confit garlic and a splash of date syrup. Truly outstanding. Now to dessert and the rounding off of a near-perfect meal: Hashcake. This isn’t what you think unfortunately! In reality this is a tart filled with a pistachio concoction we wish we knew how to make. Served with some whipped cream it ended our journey across the Barbary Coast.

Service is excellent and also included in the price of each dish – something we wish every restaurant would learn from. The general vibe is fantastic with great music in the background. The chefs who are only a couple of feet away are the stars of the show; singing, dancing and creating some of the best dishes we’ve eaten in a long time.

The Barbary

16 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, WC2H 9DP




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