From the talented team behind the acclaimed Barbary (part of the esteemed Palomar group) comes the The Barbary Next Door, which – as its name gives away – sits besides The Barbary in Covent Garden’s tucked away treasure Neal’s Yard. Like it’s sister, The Barbary Next Door has proven to be a triumphant addition to London’s restaurant scene. Occupying the space that was once the café Jacob the Angel, The Barbary Next Door is now an all-day spot executing North African meets Moorish Spanish dishes from morning through to night.
Much like its siblings, The Barbary Next Door it’s a tiny little haunt, seating 10. Actually, The Barbary Next Door is probably the sleekest of them all – this is a next door kind’a place after all. With seating perched around the zinc bar / kitchen, which snakes around to hug the exposed-brick blushed pink wall behind in a utilitarian-chic counter set-up, it’s a small but masterfully designed space. The big mirror opposite the counter gives the illusion of a bigger space; wine bottles and glasses hang from the ceiling; the lighting is soft – all making for a very convivial vibe. For such a small sliver of a restaurant, the space is utilised in a very smart way.
Notwithstanding it’s small encasing – or perhaps thanks to it – the atmosphere is warm (and became very warm temperature-wise on this July heatwave evening) and intimate, the space buzzing with eager diners hungry for some mezze action. For summer months, two tables are available outside. My companion and I were lucky enough to nab probably the two best seats in the house: facing the kitchen at the back, these are known as the “chef’s table” (notwithstanding the stool-seating). You inevitably (and happily) end up engaging in conversation with the chefs, who are of course the best at sharing their menu tips. More generally, the welcoming staff were not only attentive and efficient, but genuinely enthusiastic and knowledgeable, always happy to explain an ingredient and make well-judged recommendations.
The food pulls off the considerable feat of feeling unfussy and free of pretension, while still being executed with elegance, flair and imagination. The short but perfectly formed menu is split into snacks, breads & dips, salads and cooked. It’s definitely worth sharing a few from each section.
This evening, bread-wise my companion and I went for the Afghan khobz (£4.50). A pillowy soft sesame-encrusted round dough, warmed in the oven, its chewy texture makes it an ideal scooping mechanism. And since no bread is complete without a dip, we went for the Tahini dip (£7), given a fiery lick thanks to a topping of harissa and chilli.
From the “Raw & Fresh” selection, we went for the Carmelita Mercado salad (£9), an unfailing combination of sundried tomatoes, red onions, radishes walnuts, spring onions and plenty of herbs. It cleansed the palette very well and balanced everything nicely with a hit of freshness and zest. It’s one of those dishes I’m tempted to recreate at home.
For something “Slow cooked”, I went for the vegan Butter bean stew & smoked paprika (£12). Though more of a hearty comfort food dish suited for winter, I was pleased to see a solid vegan option on the menu. Topped with a spoon or two of creamy tahini (at my request), it had just the right level of warmth from the cinnamon and paprika. Unless still going, it’s worth ordering another khobz to wipe the plate clean.
As a late birthday celebration, we were also offered complementary shots of a grapefruit almond liquer. A delicious marriage of flavours, this was a drink to savour rather than sip in a flash.
Stepping out into the picturesque Neal’s Yard on a still-light summer evening, you’ll feel even warmer post-dinner here from full stomachs and high spirits. Though the success of spin-off restaurants is always unpredictable, this spot offers something very different from its siblings. And that’s precisely what makes this restaurant group so successful: each has a different regional focus and seasonally changing menu. Given it’s small size, the spot books up fast so it’s worth getting in a summer booking asap. The Barbary Next Door is more than just a “next door” venue or side hustle; it’s a venture (and an adventure) in its own right.
The Barbary Next Door, 16A Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP