It was more than six years ago that Jamie Oliver opened his original Barbecoa restaurant in St Paul’s, which makes the sudden appearance of a new sister site rather unexpected.
Perhaps he was initially put off by some less than positive feedback at the original, or maybe just busy with the rest of his empire.
Either way, it’s certainly true that work on the site — which occupies a prime location close to Piccadilly Circus — pushed things back a bit, not least due to builders finding a time capsule as they dug.
Included in that capsule was a menu from the long-closed New Princes’ Hotel and Restaurant, dated from January 15 1925. This prompted the decision to deck the restaurant out in a glamorous 1920s style — and potentially led to it being much better than originally intended.
The downstairs dining room has a feel of the Titanic about it — all brass fixtures, elaborate chandeliers and deep green banquettes. It has had money thrown at it, and the menu has been made to match that lavishness.
There’s a bigger steak selection than at the City site, and here there is a dedicated seafood bar loaded with oysters, ceviche and fruits de mer. The barbecue staples, which were originally Barbecoa’s selling point, are still present and correct, but less prominent.
A Porterhouse steak is rich with flavour owing to a combination of good sourcing, ageing and some smoky grilling, while creole ribs laden with paprika are a good balance of spice, sweet and sticky. Short rib croquettes boast a gloriously melting centre, while a buttery mash laced with burnt ends and gravy is comfort food par excellence.
At the upstairs bar there’s also a sense that a lot of effort has been put into the mixes on offer. Each cocktail is named and designed around something to do with the local area. The Taylor / Gentleman is a seductive mix of Dalmore single malt, bitters and cigar smoke.
None of this comes cheap. But neither should it. It’s classy, the service is polished, the ingredients good quality and the cooking spot-on.
The only really perplexing thing is why Jamie chose to run with the Barbecoa brand — it’s a completely different, much better restaurant than the City version.
Perhaps it’s all down to that time capsule.
Barbecoa Piccadilly: The lowdown
Final flavour: Jamie’s Barbecoa gets a classy upgrade.
At what cost? Starters begin at £8 and mains around £20, with a steak for two reaching £75. Half a dozen oysters are £17 and most cocktails come in around £10-£15.
Find it: 194 Piccadilly, W1J 9EX; barbecoa.com.