The Barley Mow, London: ‘Infuriatingly nice’ – Restaurant Review | food

The Barley Maw, 82 Duke Street, London W1K 6JG (020 4553 1414). Bar snacks and appetizers from £8 to £18, main courses from £19 to £36, desserts from £10 to £12, wine from £29

A lot of money, and most of the fairy lights in the world, has been put into making Mayfair London look beautiful this time of year. However, the place couldn’t help but be ugly. Outside Novikov Street in Berkeley – owned by a man who once bragged to me that he was Vladimir Putin’s favorite caterer – crowds still demanded to pass through the gleaming, light-crusted doors for £18 on the minibus. Across Berkeley Square is Bacchanalia, Richard Caring’s latest attempt to make Vegas look chic. It was apparently modeled after a faux Greco-Roman road store, complete with Damien Hirst’s sculpture of “winged lovers embracing a unicorn”. They’ve just posted their inaugural menu out there: a dozen oysters for £64? Or how about a 125g Beluga for £935? Fool it, and have both.

Meanwhile, inside the door of the newly refurbished Barley Mow pub north of Grosvenor Square, they’re showing Belgium v ​​Canada in the World Cup. I have no interest in football. I don’t understand how anyone would relate their emotional well-being to the activities of 11 people they’ve never met (minority opinion on World Cup final day, I agree). However, I find the TVs very reassuring. We might be in Mayfair, where it’s hard to find a lip that hasn’t been stuffed or a colon that hasn’t been irrigated. But there are still natural effects: Guinness and London Brewing upright, the match to be stared at while drinking.

“Roasted hot so the skin is darkened and a little chewy”: 1/2 chicken. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

But take a look around: at the wonderful etched glass windows and the deep dark lacquer luster of the bar. Now up the narrow stairs to the dining room, where the tablecloths are thick and there’s a honeyed amber glow from the Art Deco ceiling lights and sconces. Here they have a glass-fronted cabinet for their collection of Neil’s Yard cheeses. The Barley Mow was bought earlier this year by Cubitt House, a company that has for some time been introducing gleaming and powerful modifications to a range of pubs in central London, including the Alfred Tennyson in Knightsbridge and the Princess Royal in Notting Hill. These are pubs for people who wear very clean shoes.

The Barley Mow is now being run with a steady hand by Lara Rogers, who is as close to pub royalty as they are these days. She learned her trade working alongside her father, Oisin Rogers, the famous landlord of nearby Guinea Grill. But for our purposes, what really matters is the food, which is overseen by Ben Tish, formerly of Game Bird. He brought offerings like butchers and deceptions like supplies. Start with a bar menu of sausage rolls with their signature brown sauce or haggis scotch eggs. Better yet, try the hot meat bun, a sinuous combination of brioche rolls toasted over a smoky fire, piled with slices of braised beef and pickles, with a jug of extra gravy on the side for a little French dip. Like all of the best foods, it’s messy and shirt-wrecking. In a town infested with overly engineered burgers, it’s more than a fun novelty.

“More than equal to a clam”: fresh clams in the shell. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Or drop your elbows on the thick tablecloths upstairs and order fresh cockles in the shell. Cockles are more than equal to clams. These come in a hot liquid slurp of garlic parsley butter and provide huge opportunities for soaking in the crust. If that’s just too much of a mess, have a slab of terrine en croûte, in a picture-glass frame of hot water pastry, the green gem of shimmering pistachio. Served at just the right temperature, so the jelly started to melt.

For mains, there is, of course, the beef pie with parsley puree sauce (fried clams optional). There are different ways of sole Dover and roasting variable daily. Today there are two, though I don’t hear them mention sirloin, because I say yes before the waiter reaches for the “y” in the pork belly. It’s a soft, slow-cooked labneh with big puffs of crackling and a herb-stuffed round of loin, cut and crunchy. Comes with a bronze dauphinoise gratin. They warned me that it was made with anchovies, which I take as a recommendation. It’s closing in on anise temptation territory. This is never a bad thing. Along with half a chicken, hot roasted so the skin is dark and slightly chewy, comes a carafe of sage and truffle butter.

“Pulky Build”: Hot Meat Bun. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

There are many places in London for a light dinner, full of subtlety and grace. This is not one of them. You can order some seasonal greens if you like. But there under the ‘sides’ mentions of fries with roasted garlic and Westcombe curd aligot. The options should be. Who am I to judge, and what with the gravy dripping from my forearm and a beard full of parsley butter? If this photo didn’t help you, thank you that you weren’t on the other side of the table.

How much is all this, you ask? Good that you knew. Mayfair is still bloody, with asset managers rolling up their sleeves, ordering big bottles of the finest Bordeaux and bemoaning the state of the Chinese economy. Tolerance to other customers, as they do to me. Look, it’s not as bad as at the newly opened restaurant above nearby Audley, where lobster pie for two is £96 and rib-eye £48. Which is what I’m trying to dodge the question. Yeah. It’s still great here: £13 for the hot bun, £15 for the cockerel, £36 for the ham, sides included. But unlike that place a couple of weeks ago where I complained about a £100 per head dinner for something that was so good, this is so much more than that. This is the problem with really expensive things. Yes, many of them are stupid and infuriating, but some of them are really cute. The Barley Mow is really beautiful.

Boiled to perfection: Bell Helen pears. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

The dessert menu is real, with Baked Alaska for Two and Crepe Suzette, sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream being the only weak moment. The sponge should be saturated with the sauce. Here it is poured only at the very end. Get poire belle Hélène instead. It’s a perfectly poached pear shelled in cookie crumbs, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce that, like me, has crisp depths. Then he stumbled downstairs, past the now-dark TV screens, and out into the fantasy-lit night, belly full and wallet empty.

News bites

Chef Mark Hix is ​​locked in a planning battle with Dorset Council over the decking structure he built at a cost of £20,000 for the Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis during the pandemic. The outside deck is in Leicester Gardens, next to the restaurant, on space leased from the council. He recently applied to extend the lease, but was told that the application would be denied. In a letter to the board, he said post-Covid trading conditions remain difficult and that “removing the deck would undoubtedly seriously affect our business and jeopardize the future of the restaurant”. Hix will launch a petition (

Sad news from Edinburgh. Paul Kitching, the brilliant chef and owner of the 21212 restaurant and boutique hotel, has died suddenly at the age of 61. Before moving to the Scottish capital in 2010, it held a Michelin star at Juniper in Altrincham for over a decade, the only restaurant for many years in Greater Manchester to be so recognised. His food can be both crazy and inspiring. A fun meal at Juniper might include a salmon-pink “spaghetti purée,” spelling out the word spaghetti spooned out of the plate or brushed onto the bread, mini fried eggs, or eggs made with sharp natural yogurt and mashed mango yolks. It all looks silly and it was overwhelming, but it was always delicious. Kitching was that rare thing: a truly creative chef who knew how to manage his creativity. We will miss him very much.

Tipjar, the cashless rewards platform, calculated that average restaurant takeovers fell 17% on the rail strike days of October and November. Given the number of days on strike in December, employees could lose around £15m in tips this month. Ben Thomas of Tipgar believes this could amount to a loss of around £40 for the staff. “As we line up with the workers’ talk of improving wages and conditions,” he said. “Our mission is to represent some of the lowest-wage workers whose income is directly related to the appetite of bars and restaurants.”

Email Jay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter MustafaHosny Oh God, Amen

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