Just got back from London where we spent several evenings getting all caught up with the new and noteworthy restaurants in town. So, as always there are plenty of glam upmarket options to choose from, but we popped into a couple of small casual restaurants featuring a more relaxed and rustic decor.
The Barbary restaurant is located at 16 Neal's Yard, a mini pedestrian precinct in the heart of Covent Garden and is named for the former coast surrounding Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. Because of the Barbary’s size (tiny) it's pretty difficult to get reservations. Ariane Jessamine-Herd, the “make it happen “ GM at our hotel The Knightsbridge, managed to manœuvre us into a 5:30 pm seating, which is practically a late lunch. No matter, it was well worth it. The layout is a semi circle of all-counter seating with the open kitchen bar in the middle The chefs cook on a charcoal grill, and everyone gets to enjoy the theater of seeing meals rapidly prepared over open flames.
We tried various small dishes including a smooth and smoky baba ganoush, Msabacha chickpeas, lamb cutlets Zuzu which arrived at the table in a swirl of flames, para negra neck - a subtly seasoned neck of lamb and black salmon Dukkah, which the table next to us ordered seconds of and we were tempted to as well.
lamb cutlets in a swirl of fire
For our last evening in London we visited Kiln at 58 Brewer Street, Soho small, casual and quite snug with all counter seating along the length of a narrow room. We were trying to figure out the best place to stand and not be in the way when the maitre 'd appeared and whisked us downstairs. We were delighted to see actual tables, and we could actually spread out. We took our girlfriend Connie on our little food adventure and she was thrilled to discover somewhere new to try in her neighborhood.
Kiln's cuisine is a take on street style food with a focus on Northern Thailand, and yes everything is cooked in a kiln with wood, no gas or electricity. All the dishes are simply prepared in innovative combinations and it all feels authentic, not the least bit precious and certainly lives up to the hype. We'll definitely be back next time we're in town.