Barshu Soho, London. Review

Still hot, numbing and exploding with flavour. Barshu has not thrown the baby out with the bathwater with this new makeover.

One pm in Soho, Friday, on the corner of Frith Street. ‘Where is everybody?’ says H peeking out through the slats at Barshu and out into the road.

Where indeed?  Back in the day, pre-Covid, on a Friday lunchtime there would have been people everywhere in Soho – standing outside the pubs, packed into the restaurants or just moving purposefully about.

‘It’s not the same,’ she sighs, tweezering up a crispy piece of salt & pepper squid and popping it ruminatively into her mouth. ‘Nothing is the same’.

It’s true, even Barshu, where I’ve been eating on and off for over ten years, has had a makeover. It still feels the same though and the staff behind those fatuous paper masks still have the same cheerfulness of old. It’s just brighter and better now

And the food is still as good as ever, but now with extra dishes, and they’re still serving the kind of authentic Sichuan meat dishes that scare most non-Chinese half to death, including me.


Dishes such as  ‘Assorted meats in fiery sauce (duck blood, honeycomb beef tripe, beef tripe, pig’s intestine, luncheon pork, etc)” for example. I wish I had the bottle to try it.

The menu is new,big and glossy, clearly fresh from the printers, and full of high-quality photographs. It goes on for pages and pages and you can easily find yourself going back and forth forever. Just what to have?

Well a mix of old and new suited us for starters, that classic salt and pepper squid for example. Colourful, crispy and fresh,  all the dish lacked, for me, was more salt. Perhaps I was wrong about that, because I did end up drinking almost a gallon of Barshu’s excellent jasmine tea over the course of lunch.

Classic too was the sweetcorn soup, perhaps the first Chinese dish I ever ate when Chinese restaurants were still a novelty in the South London suburb where I grew up.

Back then I loved the strange glutinous texture of the soup and the egginess. I still do and Barshu, with the benefit of no doubt plenty of chicken bones for the stock, does an excellent version. Comforting and familiar, deeply flavoured

Unfamiliar can be good too though, and Sichuan pea jelly with chopped salted chillies was just that. Translucent green ‘logs slippery with fiery sauce. Handling them was like trying to pick up dropped shower soap with chopsticks, I finally resorted to fingers.

We liked the cool refreshing tones of the pea jelly against the chili, this would make a good vegan main with rice, depending on what’s used to solidify the jelly of course.

Sea bass has long been a Barshu staple, I had to have it but this time instead of the usual oven-roasted we had it in ‘soup’, Barshu calls it ‘boiled’ which rather undersells it.

We had Boiled Sea Bass fillet with chilis and Sichuan peppercorn, which was superb.

In the broth, semi submerged, was lots and lots of pure white seabass fillet lurking under environmental-disaster-sized slicks of fragrant oil. Slippery mushrooms and sweetly sour tomatoes evaded the spoon like playful dolphins, and everywhere bobbed the Sichuan peppercorn that makes this food so different from the largely Cantonese cooking of nearby Chinatown.

We ladled it over plain steamed Jasmine rice, because that broth was born to be absorbed and raved over our fish even as the peppercorn did its business on our lips. Why do we love the numbness and the citric shock of Sichuan? What alchemy makes it so addictive?


We didn’t need the Ma Po tofu, here given its less attractive name of ‘Pock-marked old woman’s beancurd’, but it was loaded with peppercorns and chili and was hard to resist, so we didn’t.

Barshu is not cheap, although you can always find plenty of well-priced dishes that deliver plenty of taste. Splashing out one of the sea bass dishes, which are easily shared is well worth it though. Go as a crowd and you can really dive into the menu.

Hopefully Soho will return to life and when it does Barshu will once again be one of its premier places to eat.

barshurestaurant.co.uk

28 Frith St, London W1D 5LF

The Little Lobster Bar Review

Fresh from the mother restaurant down the road, Bob’s Lobster has docked it’s smaller ship in Borough Market to dispense all manner of lobster loveliness to hungry passing punters.

“That’s a quidsworth you’ve dropped there,’ L says casually, as I battle to contain my Lobster & Crayfish Roll from disintegrating entirely onto the table.

She’s probably right, this seafood monster costs £19, so every bit is sacred and not a morsel can be wasted. I scoop up the chunk of dropped lobster, with the edge of my finger and then eat it. I’m sure the table’s clean enough and I hate waste.

It is one heck of a roll, containing lobster claw, tail and knuckle, as well as crayfish, in a toasted brioche bun all doused in rapeseed mayo and sprinkled with house celery salt. You need three hands to eat it but boy is it good, the lightly toasted bun’s slight dryness balancing out the rich filling. The meat is generous and sweet.



It’s gloriously rich and yet unpretentious, rather like the surroundings. We’re sitting in the large hall part of Borough Market, a section that is being slowly turned into a food court and the first resident is BOB’s Lobster’s Little Lobster Bar

They’ve extended their crustacean operation from their main restaurant by bringing around Ruby, their original 1957 Vintage VW split screen converted Campervan to serve as a small kitchen,as well as eye candy.

The space around is for now a bit bleak, the Campervan is the only splash of colour, but while they wait for others to join them Bob’s Snappers do have plenty of room for tables. Which is good as this is not the kind of food to ideally eat on your feet, unless you want your shoes splashed.


We’re having a bit of a seafood fest in the breezy space with these native lobster from the south coast and the Shetlands. 

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Three lobster arancini on a semi- spicy tomato base are gloriously stringy with mozzarella cheese. Arancini were once a peasant’s way of using up leftover risotto, but with the addition of lobster they become gentrified and then some more. Three between two of us results in a clash of wooden forks.

And then there are the Crab Tacos; warmed corn tortillas filled with hispi slaw, guacamole, crab, cashew butter, fresh herbs, lemon and Valentina hot sauce.


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I think maybe these are my favourite. There’s an awful lot going on inside, as is kind of obligatory these days of more meaning more, but the flavours manage to remain distinct. That said, a bit more of that hot sauce wouldn’t have gone amiss.

We’re washing it all down with Prosecco which, along with Champagne Laurent-Perrier, frozen margaritas and van-made, Southern style lemonade, is part of the drinks menu. Perhaps they should have called this pop-up Bubbles and Bobs?

We are understandably quite full by now, becoming part lobster ourselves, but it would be rude to leave without sharing a Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese.

This is three cheeses, macaroni, lobster bisque bechamel, lobster tail and knuckle meat and topped with crispy shallots and oregano.



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It’s as rich as Bill Gates and easily more than enough for one person, in fact even two of us gourmands had to reluctantly leave some in the pot. A frantic mix of flavours, it’s the sort of comfort dish that rappers might go for – recognisable as home cooking, but only if home is a penthouse.

We leave with our carapaces strained to bursting, perhaps on reflection I should have let that bit of lobster roll escape after all.


The Little Lobster Bar is open Tuesday to Saturday

11am to 5pm and until 6pm on​​ Fridays. In the evenings the 60-cover space can be hired out for events.


BOBs Lobster Market Hall, Bedale Street, Borough Market London, SE1 9AL

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Six By Nico.Canary Wharf



It’s all in the name –  ever changing, very affordable, six course tasting menus from the mind of Chef Nico Simeone. 

It’s been an astonishingly fast journey for Nico Simeone. From his first restaurant in Glasgow in 2015, he’s now knocking it for six all over the UK.

The concept is simple; an affordable, innovative, tasting menu of six courses that changes every six weeks.

Tasting menus? I hear you cry. Surely no one wants those anymore? In the wrong hands they had become a byword for a culinary theatre of cruelty, one where demonic chefs crazed with self importance battered you with course after course until you became angry and desperate to escape.

In theory though, a menu of innovative small plates cleverly thought through is a good idea if kept sensible in length (I once had a twenty four course menu that was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons), they are easily eaten and enjoyed.

So Six it is and for the opening six weeks In his new Canary Wharf restaurant Simeone has brought back his original hit The Chippie first served in Glasgow in 2017. It’s a meal themed around fish and chips, pies, and a deep fried Mars bar.

First though we add to our bill by trying an aperitif called Seaside 75. To a glass of Earl Grey, Prosecco and lemon juice we stir in samphire and sea salt. This causes the glass to froth like those chemistry lessons where you added baking powder to vinegar. A nice bit of fun and a refreshing drink.


Also off-piste is what’s called ‘a snack’. Superb sourdough bread with rich shellfish butter that’s as iron grey as a battleship, plus cannelloni made from filo pastry and stuffed with salty taramasalata and topped with lemon gel and a smattering of caviar. Don’t try eating the pebbles, they’re real.

Curry sauce is not a chippie thing in the soft south, but north of Midland Keynes they can’t get enough. First course proper is Chips & Cheese –  potato terrine cut into a chip and topped with a curry oil mayo that has the Proustian aroma of 1970s curries (if you’re old enough to remember those, that is).

A bowl of foamed Parmesan is where you dip your chip, a powerful and rich sauce that we both ended up scraping out the bowl with the desperation born from knowing that it was coming to an end.


Of course you need battered fish in a chippie, and it came as a ‘scampi’, but made with a chunk of monkfish cheek. Once upon a time monkfish was regarded as a cheap version of scampi, my mother used to warn of restaurants that tried passing it off. Hard to believe now with monkfish being more expensive.

A rich dill and butter sauce set off the cheek, along with a tangy gribiche sauce (posh tartare) and peas, which I thought were a bit starchy and undercooked.

A good chippie always has a few pies in its warming section, usually wrapped in plastic and containing meat whose origin it’s best not to speculate on. Nico’s take on this is a mini jewel of steak pie made from unimpeachable Speyside beef shin accompanied by mushroom duxelle and an onion ketchup that hints at HP but soars above it.

This is just the right size; any larger a portion and I’d have been done for.  As it is, I am soon refreshed and ready for the ‘Big One’.

The Fish Supper is a lovely chunk of Shetland cod cosied up with sharp and briny pickled mussels, a remarkable confit fennel and crisp, salty samphire. A  beer emulsion brings it all together.

The final savoury almost tips me over. It’s a heavy one that picks up on the theme of the dubious sausages and frankfurters usually found in a chippie, but of course is all high quality here. It’s a trio of porky bits with apple, black pudding, salt baked celeriac and a sharp choucroute to cut the fats.

It’s very good but I am glad it’s the last of the mains, I am flagging now, so dessert ahoy. And what else could it be but ‘deep fried Mars Bar’.

Did this dish ever exist, or was the story of how a chip shop in Scotland made them in the  mid-1990s just an English joke about the Scottish diet? Who knows, but it’s a great story and here is its 2021 interpretation.

It’s not of course a real Mars Bar chez Nico, but a slab of chocolate pavé topped off with a deep fried dough ball and dished on a bed of chocolate soil (hello Heston) alongside a quenelle of Irn-Bru sorbet. Irn-Bru for those not familiar with it, tastes rather like Tizer although Scottish people get rather upset when you say that.

It’s a great finale to a great meal which comes in, without the extras we had, at a remarkable £37. When you think about what cod and chips cost in a chippie these days, that’s a real steal.

We also had the matched wines for an extra £33. Great choices, lucidly but not boringly explained each time by the charming staff.

The look of the restaurant, the cool staff and the superlative cooking make this one of London’s best deals for an affordable real treat. Okay it’s in Canary Wharf, and not everyone works there, but it’s a simple and short ride from central London.

Fish lunch or fish supper, it’s your choice, but hurry as the menu changes on September 17th.

Six by Nico Canary Wharf

6 Chancellor Passage, 

London, 

E14 5EA

www.sixbynico.co.uk | IG: @sixbynicocanarywharf 


When is a cow not a cow? When it’s a Txuleton

Before I begin, I assume none of you lovely readers are vegans or vegetarians? If so, you might want to stop reading now.

I myself eat meat, but not a lot. So, when I do eat it, I want something special.

Txuleton is that something special.Txuleton, or rib, steak usually comes from the Rubia Gallega cow.

It’s a cow from North West Spain that can be as old as 18 years before being turned into steaks.In the Basque country old dairy cows are used.

That is pretty old. I mean in the UK beef is usually slaughtered before the cow gets to three years.

Normally dairy cows past their milking prime are disposed of, but in the Basque country they are fattened up for eating.

So why are old cows so good?‘

Well’, says Sagardi Shoreditch’s meat selector Imanol Jaca, ‘it’s because mature muscle and fat tastes better and myoglobin in the muscles means a redder meat’.

Continue reading

BOB’s Lobster, London Bridge.

BOB’s Lobster is a quite a catch, super fresh seafood in a modern diner setting and with some very inventive dishes that don’t all involve the lobster.

As I get older I find myself more and more doing that mindless humming thing, not even aware I am doing it, at least until I catch people looking at me with the ‘who’s the loon?’ expression.

I was humming again going into BOB’s Lobster, but this time I was humming the B-52’s classic ‘Rock Lobster’. It was impossible not to. Continue reading