I don’t get up to London much these days, as most meetings are now done remotely on Teams. Kind of miss the face to face interaction and the opportunity to try out places to eat in London, but not the ballache (and backache, based on the seemingly reinforced concrete seats on GWR’s trains) of getting up there. When I do I like me to eat somewhere.
One place in the Big Smoke, I have been wanting to try for ages was Bar Douro.
The place comes with formidable reputation, with the great and the good of the food critic world (such as Fay Mascehler and Marina O’Loughin) waxing lyrically as to its merits.
Having been to Portugal a few times (due back there this year with trips to Lisbon and the Azores), I think the cuisine is chronically underrated (J, just to be clear, Nandos most definitely doesn’t count). It never seems to get the plaudits it deserves despite it excelling in both the more rustic fast food style food (francesinha, bifanas and pregos to name but a few) and more ambitious stuff in my experience.
The Portuguese have a sweet tooth that purs us Brits to same and a love of the porcine to rival that of their Spanish neighbours. They also seem to eat all the time, which makes then very much my kind of people. The wine ain’t too shabby either (with huge amounts of interesting stuff passed the world famous port). As such, Bar Douro has been on my list of places to try for a while.
They have two units, the original in Southwark and a newish one, in the City. It was the latter that was my lunch time port of call (Douro joke).
Nice looking interior (the weather was not conducive to the outdoor area)
and who doesn’t love a wine wall
I was (as a solo diner) sat on a stool at the counter.
Quite like that as I can see the kitchen at work (which I tend to find fascinating).
Nice looking menu, which is split into snacks (petiscos), garden, sea and land (cheese and desserts – they should have deliberately mispelt the latter to continue the theme – also feature).
Lots of interest here and I am very fond of bacahlau, which you will find in any Portuguese restaurant worth its salt 😉. Beloved of the Spanish and Portuguese (the latter have over 1000 recipes for it – I mean how!), it is strangely not really a thing in the UK (odd bearing in mind the UK is an island nation, with a rich seafaring history and cod being one of the few fish that is truly loved) – our loss I would say. As a result, I was drawn to both the salt cod hash and the salt cod fritters.
I settled on the fritters (£7.50)
Nice craggy looking beast these, with generously apportioned set of 3 fritters.
Whist I enjoyed the slightly firmer texture you get from salted cod, with nice big chunks of it here,
it was oddly lacking in seasoning and the exterior lacked the expected crispiness. Bit of a rubbery texture to it.
Whilst it was pepped up a bit by dunking the fritters in the rather garlicy tomato based molho, it was all a touch on the bland side. Disappointing start.
In terms of a second dish, I very much liked the sound of both the bife de cebolada & tutano (onglet steak with onion and bone marrow – no idea why so many people turn their noses up at this culinary delight) and the bochechas de boi & couve – flor (beef cheeks and and cauliflower). My interest was, however, piqued by the duck rice and chouriço (similar to chorizo but smoked and with less paprika in the mix) – £15. A classic in Portuguese cuisine, it is a typical Portuguese Sunday lunch dish (I, of course, had it on a Tuesday)
Lovely looking and smelling dish this, with the carolino rice (short grained similar to arborio rice) having plumped up nicely from being cooked in a duck stock infused with the chouriço and with a generous loading of well flavored shredded duck and finally diced chouriço. I would say this was more akin to a pilaf than a risotto, being much dryer than the latter. Nice back flavours of herbs and aromats in the mix, with thyme, possibly star anise and a touch of orange too, added nicely to the flavour profile and complimented meats.
In theory, a homely dish but one that requires lots of time to make. Sort of dish (like Asador 44’s fabada) that I often favor in restaurants (pay then to do the hard yards – I mean how often do you see in the shops/make a duck stock).
I skipped on cheese and dessert, but was sorely tempted by the abades de priscos (an egg yolk pudding), which sounded rather interesting.
Booze wise the solely Portuguese (outside of port, Portugal is a hugely underrated wine country and as such often good value) list had plenty of interest on it for pretty much all pockets.
I was only up for a glass so went to the by the glass element. I like that they do 125ml, 500ml and full bottle options.
I went for the cheaper of the two Alenjeto wines, in the form of the Impicit tinto (£8.35 a glass). The £35 per bottle price stands up well as against the retail price of about £15.50 (this is a pretty good mark up for London).
Nice rich dark fruits, a touch of smokey spice and well integrated tannins, I thought this worked well with the robust flavors of the duck rice.
The MOB Senna, at the more expensive end of the by the glass list, followed the reasonable mark up theme with a price of £60 as against a UK retail price of around £30 per bottle.
Contrary to the title, I did pass on the port, although the 1997 Churchill’s at £16.50 for a 75ml glass (retails at around £90 a bottle) did give me pause for thought (before I saw sense).
Despite the bum note from the bacahlau fritters, I rather enjoyed my meal here. The duck rice and wine I had with it were great and there is plenty of other interesting stuff to try on the menu.
It is one of those places where you feel more than welcome as a solo diner (I did very much like my counter spot with views into the kitchen), but which is an equally good fit for a group.
Definitely give it another go, as need to try the onglet and bone marrow and the beef cheek and cauliflower dishes, either solo or with a few more people in tow. Perhaps I will have more luck bacahlau wise if I go for the hash next time.
Address: Unit 3, I Finsbury Avenue, London, EC2M 2PF