The Barbary Next Door, Covent Garden: restaurant review
As London drifts into the endless grey of winter, we find vibrant, life-affirming, cockle-warming food and service at The Barbary Next Door, the new opening from the acclaimed Palomar Group
What's the draw
The Barbary Next Door lies, unsurprisingly, next door to smash hit The Barbary and is a pocket-sized all-day restaurant that similarly celebrates North African and Moorish cooking. Zoe and Layo Paskin's newest opening under The Palomar Group is delivered in a tiny space with counter seating that brings you up close and personal with the moustachio'd, hoop-earring-wearing servers. And by tiny, we mean tiny – you'll literally be rubbing shoulders, elbows and knees with your neighbours, and the experience is made all the more glorious for it. This is a restaurant with genuine warmth that comes not only from the service, but from food cooked with soul and delivered with care. Music is funky, the vibe is great, and we can almost guarantee you'll stay much longer than you plan to.
What to eat
The best way to describe the food here is life-affirming: presentation is colourful and approachable. The menu requires some translation from your server, unless you're incredibly well acquainted with Moorish cooking. But we didn't mind: it made every dish a curiosity, in a very good way. And for once we didn't have a 'favourite', because every plate was as good as the last. Three cute little quails eggs with cumin salt, and two plump, juicy Porthilly oysters with a delicate dribble of harissa oil took the edge off gnawing hunger when we first arrived; then a round knob of khobz bread, studded with baharat spice, came with machluta , butternut squash mash on top of a tahini slick. Three tiny mergeuz sausages were offset by the navelina orange salad, juicy and sweet with musky notes from moscatel vinegar and coconut; oxtail tagine was rich and chocolatey, with fluffy-yet-crisp couscous that seriously outstrips that stuff you make at home. There's more (including really, really good desserts), but we just can't fit it all in our word count.
What to drink
Though there's a select list of delicious-sounding cocktails on the menu – we see you Cocchi sbagliato – we dived straight into an equally short and snappy wine list, compiled by The Palomar Group's wine director Honey Spencer, a name to watch in London's food and drink scene. Available by the bottle and by the glass, the wines have a focus on Spain, France and Morocco, so we went with a glass of floral yet toasty orange wine from Spanish winemaker Purulio that managed to keep apace with all the bold flavours in our food. It was actually so delicious we stayed with it through the meal (something we regret in hindsight), before switching to a figgy, dried-fruit-laden 2019 Verdevique dessert wine from Pedro Ximenéz, one of the world's best-known producers of sweet wines.
Snacks from £3; small plates from £9.50. 16a Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP; thebarbarynextdoor.co.uk