The area around St. Paul's is not one into which I usually venture regularly, so the arrival of the new up-market shopping mall "New Change" had completely passed me by. I had been aware that the original building on this site had vanished, but there hadn't been a compelling reason to visit whatever had grown in that very spot until a friend suggested we pay a visit to Mr. Oliver's latest franchise. The name Barbecoa implies it will be heavy on the meat, an impression which is confirmed when walking past the eponymous butcher on the ground floor where all sorts of dead animals are tastily displayed.
Not knowing what to expect, we entered the giant space on the first floor of the mall that Barbecoa occupies. We were seated along the massive glass front, which offered glorious views of St. Paul's, covered in snow flurries and lit up bright red to honour World Aids Day. With this kind of setup, food has to turn out pretty horrible to ruin such a night. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
Apparently Jamie Oliver spent around £2.8m for the restaurant, but once he had seen the space he felt that he had to do it. Only taking in the huge space do you sense this to be a realistic description of what might have happened.
As expected, the focus is on the meat, and it did not disappoint. The ribs for starters were perfect, and the rumpsteak as a main was as good as any steak I have ever had, grilled to absolute perfection. But frankly, when you put meat on your storefront, this should be the case. My friend's burger was delicious, but he couldn't help but regret his choice once he tried my slap of beef.
It being a big-money franchise, the overall setup is a bit too generic for my taste, but it might be naive to expect the intimate atmosphere of a small neighbourhood smokehouse at a venture of this scale. However, it does leave you with the feeling of being in a completely artificial setup, almost like 'Disney Does Barbeque'. On plus side though, it is a remarkably affordable evening out, which does seem do the trick in bringing the masses in.
One thing is to be said: Whilst we didn't overly indulge, we still felt as if we had fulfilled our calorie requirements for at least a few days, without even having to go into desserts.
Maybe that's Jamie Oliver's approach, to prevent people asking: "Please Sir, could I have some more?"
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