After an upscale Indian that lobs a few curveballs? Bibi's your boy.
It can be tough to keep up with London's blizzard of brilliant fresh spots. But here's our list of the city's most exciting new openings to help.
What is it?
As foodie sequels go, The Barbary Next Door is one of the more hotly anticipated in recent years. It's a (very) little sister to the OG Barbary – a beloved, miniscule counter joint in Covent Garden's technicolour Neal’s Yard, that’s long been heralded as one of London’s best (and part of a group that also includes Palomar and Soho’s tasting spot of the moment, Evelyn’s Table). Given the lineage, you’d expect swooning good looks and the kind of similarly meticulous cooking that nabbed its predecessor the top slot on Time Out's London restaurants rankings for years in a row. You’d be correct to.
First up: tiny space, huge vibes. The Barbary Next Door was formerly a decent café called Jacob the Angel (set to go down in London's cakey annals for its astounding coconut cream pies). That spot was conspicuously dinky, but now they’ve halved the room again – bisecting it with a marble counter bar and upping the warm, cheek-to-cheek atmosphere in the process (we’re post-Covid now, people). Add some some overhanging Art Deco wine storage, and a wall of artfully burnished mirrors, and you've got one of the warmest little boltholes in WC2H.
Offering-wise, it’s still The Barbary in spirit, slamming out a selection of finely-honed small plates riffing on the flavours of the north African (aka, Barbary) coast and the Middle East (with a view past the Israeli offerings of the original outpost with a marvellously pillowy Afghan khobz bread). It’s hard to fault anything at all, from the marble-sized, cumin-flecked quail’s eggs best knocked back with a stiffening, sweet-saline Three Stones martini, or the bevvy of dips for that bread (the densely moreish tomato matbucha and smoky aubergine zaalouk, in particular); to plates of roasted quail, tender lamb's sweetbread skewers and the trad Moroccan chicken pastilla – a kind of sweet-savoury filo pie, dusted with icing sugar – here refashioned spring-roll-style.
The Spain-heavy wine list, much of which organic or biodynamic, is also thoughtfully curated – group sommelier Honey Spencer on wicked form, as ever – with a blinding Constantina Sotelo Maristerra albariño a standout.
Fine, it's a tad wallet-dusting; the almost forensic portioning making it all feel like a wine bar with food rather than the inverse. But hey, you can forgive them the chutzpah when it's this good.
What should I eat?
Everything's great, but your go-to from the more robust dishes should be the slow-cooked, thwackingly flavourful oxtail tagine, served with a mound of couscous. God’s own super-stew, basically.
For something a tad lighter, hit up the sunset crudo of sea bream, carrot, orange and coriander oil – an effervescent and fragrant take on the raw fish staple.
You'll want to close with something sweet: the Moroccan sfenj donuts – served, churros-style, with a ramekin of melted chocolate, cardamom and citrus – are a superlative ender.
Why should I go?
For terrific, tiny taste-bombs and great booze in a joint that's set to get all the accolades – and crowds – of its established neighbour.
16A Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP