Giles gets to sample Jamie Oliver’s still successful Barbecoa, now in Piccadilly

Barbecoa in St Pauls is not a new venture for Jamie Oliver, far from it in fact. It’s been running for the best part of 5 years and since its inception the restaurant has seen a steady rise in popularity. This growing success has been mirrored by other establishments vying for steakhouse glory; Gaucho, STK and Hawksmore to name a few.

Looking to expand, Jamie is opening his 2nd restaurant in the Barbecoa series. I went along to its opening night in Piccadilly to see what it was offering apart from the Porterhouse and Chateaubriand classics.

Jamie describes Barbecoa as,’an Aladdin’s cave filled with some equipment that no one else in London has’. The treasures include robatas, wood-fired ovens, Texas pit smokers, Argentinian grills, and tandoori ovens peppered with fruit woods, like apple oak and cherry. All the aforementioned cookers help to not only cook the food, but flavour it too.

The décor is perhaps a little less reflective of an Aladdin’s cave, and yet it’s not unequipped. Large LED bulbs produce only a murmur of light, bathing the restaurant in a dim orange glow. Art deco features are concurrent throughout, including a golden lift, straight out of 1920’s New York. A long, white marble bar is a beacon in the dark and stacked to the brim with a kaleidoscopic array of spirits. No Bells or Smirnoff here.

Food for the evening was a mixture of canapes and small plates, all intended to showcase the range of ingredients and alternative cooking techniques utilised by the restaurant. Seasoned fillet steak cooked over an open grill was cooked medium-rare, tinged with smoke it was also melt-in-the-mouth-delicious.

Also doing the rounds was a stone bass and scallop ceviche supplemented with persimmon, fennel and red chilli. Persimmon isn’t something I wouldn’t think of pairing with scallop and bass but it worked.

I was perfectly happy getting my hands dirty whilst tucking into some sticky creole ribs. Smothered in a smoky, honey thick sauce, they were well worth the napkins.

Piled high on an extravagant bed of ice, an enclave of seafood was amounted in one corner. Here I sampled incredibly fresh, ice cold oysters, old bay smoked prawns, mussels with a Champagne and parsley dressing and some rather fetching Cured Shetland Salmon. All were appetizing bar the Mussels, which were marred by grit and sand.

One of the best plates of the evening was a slow cooked lamb pitta, scattered with smoky babaganoush, labneh, pickled red onion, coriander, mint and chilli sauce. I don’t think I recall a time when there wasn’t a large queue for this. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find it on the Barbecoa menu…some food for thought maybe Jamie? 

Puddings should also not be forgotten; tactlessly I only had room left for two. The first was a malt macaron – which I believe is employed with a Sundae on the menu. Rather like a giant Malteser, it was sweet and milky. The second was my Achilles heel, a custard panna cotta. Thick and wobbly it ticked all the boxes.

When a chef such as Jamie Oliver is opening a new restaurant, expectations are high and critics, such as myself, are poised to find fault. In all honesty I struggled to find a single thing wrong with Jamie’s not-so-new venture. The décor was modern, classy and mood shaping. The food was simply done but elevated with curious ingredients and novel cooking techniques. I went into Barbecoa a sceptic and came out a convert.

Book for a place at Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa here.

To see the Piccadilly menu go here, or to see the St Pauls menu go here.