Basically, I wanted to leave with my dignity intact, so I was faced with a difficult dilemma and that was whether to drink the blow-your-socks-off Bloody Mary that had just arrived.
We had gone to Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa for lunch, a barbecue food lovers heaven with the most spectacular view of St Paul's Cathedral. It's a very manly place. The flavours are smokey and full-bodied while their meat is carefully selected by in-house butchers. The decor is dark and tan with leather banquettes and copper coloured lighting. And the diners on the normal-working Tuesday that we went there were largely dapper-dressed city gents and ladies in suits.
On the menu to match this masculine tone were impressive meat dishes such as the 24oz Chateaubriand with truffle butter for two at £75 and their 45oz on-the-bone rib-eye for two with charred onions.
All of this is impressive stuff as was the view. Floor to ceiling windows enclosed the horse-shoe shaped dining area on the first floor, which meant that wherever you sat you could still enjoy an uniterrupted view of St Paul's Cathedral's dome. It's my favourite view in London, so I was utterly delighted.
I'm also a big fan of Jamie Oliver's other restaurant concern, Jamie's Italian. We've got one in Brighton that I've never blogged about, because my feeling is that eveyone knows how good it is already. However, Barbecoa was new to me, so I was surprised to learn it had already been open five years.
For our lunch time experience we tried two different menus, the lunch set menu at £27 for three courses and the main menu, which came to slightly more.
In a flurry of excitement I had ordered from the main menu a cocktail of pickled onion gin and aged port to try and a starter to share of short rib croquettes and kimchi mayo. The drink arrived and I realised that I'd actually ordered a special Bloody Mary that also included gin and port. Woah. At the same time the croquettes had arrived and on first taste I noticed they had a great crunch to them. The rib meat inside just melted away. Then I tasted the Bloody Mary and realised it was so potent that I needed to eat first before dipping into that red-heaven again.
Our starters arrived, mine was of tandoori wild prawns with lime pickle yoghurt on a plate with a domed cover on it. My eating companion for the meal was my mum and she had chosen chicken wings in a buffalo hot sauce. The cover was removed and a swirl of steam was released. The tandoori flavours were unmistakable and yet subtle, the prawns were big and chunky and delicious. The chicken wings just couldn't compare.
For the mains, mum went for the Barbecoa burger of Wagyu beef, smoked black strap bacon, Westcombe cheddar, sticky onions, white BBQ sauce and beef dripping chips. I went for wood-roasted sea trout with smoked crab butter and coal-roasted sweet potato as a side. The burger delivered on big flavours, the bacon and cheese combined in a smokey mouthful with the burger. My sea-trout had a much more delicate flavour, yet tasted delicious and was a good generous portion. The flesh of the sweet potato just fell apart in a sweet, orange mush of loveliness.
At the beginning of the meal Mike the Sommelier had come over to suggest wine to accompany our meal and we had gone for a carafe of pinot noir. It was a great choice, light in flavour it was very easy to drink and seemed to suit all our dishes.
By this stage I was ridiculously full and a little warm after a few glasses of red wine so I left the dessert to mum. She tried the sticky toffee pudding with Bourbon butterscotch and maple pecans. It was very sweet and mum liked how the sauce came in a little jug so you could add as much as you wanted for yourself.
Meal over I asked mum what she had thought and she replied, "your Grandpa used to say, you can't make a good meal out of bad meat." My Grandfather had been a dairy and beef farmer and they had had their own butcher's shop, so this was a subject close to his heart. At Barbecoa where the beef they use is dry aged in-house for up to 70 days, this clearly matters to Barbecoa too.
After a little further prompting my mum gave me her stand out dish, she had thought the dessert was gorgeously sweet. For me the stand out dish had to be the tandoori prawns, the taste was just superb.
As we got up to leave I had a choice to make and that was whether to leave in a calm and dignified fashion or to finish my Bloody Mary and see what happens. A surprisingly mature me finally chose with regret the more refined option. I took a final swig of my £9 Silverskin Snapper Bloody Mary and said goodbye to the most spectacular view of London and fabulous food from Barbecoa.
Barbecoa, 20 New Change Passage, London EC4M 9AG
With thanks to Barbecoa for our complimentary meal. My opinions and choosing to drink sensibly, my own decision.
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