Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Portuguese food! Where should I start?
A friend of mine brought me to Bar Douro and I knew this was a place to repeat and a new place you need to try!
The first time I went to this new place was with my lovely friends. We hadn’t met for so long and it was Marta’s birthday. Well, let’s celebrate! Cátia found Bar Douro and was dying to go there. Ana and I were up for whatever as long as it was tasty. As Cátia’s choices tend to be great, surprise dinner approved! After meeting at a 1920’s Dresses exhibition we got to Bar Douro and excitement grew.
What did I enjoy the most? Well, being with my friends is my first answer, but oh… That food!!! That Pão com Chouriço (Bread with Chorizo), those Croquettes de Alheira and oh! That wine!
Bar Douro is one of the newest upgraded Portuguese food restaurants in town and it should totally become the talk of the town! So I dragged João with me and well… My mouth is watering of just thinking about it.
Bar Douro is a new Portuguese restaurant located on Arch 35b at Flat Iron Square. It belongs to the Churchill’s Port company and its concept has been developed by the owner Max Graham and Head Chef Tiago Santos.
Once you come in, you get that stylish Portuguese feeling straight away: it’s filled with beautiful white and blue tiles (azulejos) everywhere.
It’s a small space in which you are either given a seat at the counter facing the open kitchen, or you’re given a seat at the counter facing the Square. Neither is a bad option, to be fair! #WinWin
Once you come in, you’re greeted by friendly staff. There are hangers under the tables to conveniently hang your coats and bags, and you’re ready to devour everything that comes your way!
This second time, it was slightly quieter as it was a Monday, opposed to a Thursday. So despite not having booked (#SoRisky, #SoAdventurous #LookAtYou!) and it being fairly busy, we were seated straight away, and we got a seat facing the Shard.
I do prefer sitting at the kitchen counter to be honest, as it allows for some interaction with the chefs. I like to talk about food (#NoShitSherlock) and give my feedback in real time. But sitting at the window allowed for a little more couple talk, which is great too.
‘What are Petiscos?’ you might ask. They’re small dishes that are meant to be shared. Petiscos is the Portuguese version of Spanish Tapas.
In Portugal, you would go to an old tasca (a small restaurant/cafe), ask for a couple of ‘minis’ (a small beer 25cl) for you and your friend, and eat some petiscos. A Portuguese tasca is usually a small space, the menu tends to be the same over the years and you’re served by the same waiters and owners. It feels like home in both the cooking and ambiance.
In the latest years, an updated version of tascas started to pop up in Portuguese cities. With a renewed decor that mixes traditional and contemporary, upgraded menus and a cool vibe.
This is what Bar Douro has to offer in London. And more.
The menu is divided by Petiscos (Snacks) and Small Plates. For me, as a Portuguese, I don’t consider the snacks on the menu as petiscos. What is on the menu described as petiscos is, in fact, Portuguese starters (in Portuguese they’re called entradas). Our starters are usually some bread with butter, a little cheese, some olives, or croquettes, salt cod cakes. We then have a several petiscos would then be the mains and then we’d have dessert. So for me, these are starters.
But first things first, we were thirsty.
So we asked for the wine list because both the red and white I’ve tried last time were amazing.
Their wine list is great and quite long. They have some space upstairs for storage and that’s why they can offer a great range of Portuguese wines, that basically taste delicious.
We both decide on two glasses of red wine and whilst João goes for Churchill’s Estate from Douro (which I drank with my friends last time) I decided to try Aventura from Alentejo. Both are very easy to drink, but whilst the Churchill’s is a bit lighter, Aventura is for me a bit denser and it simply tastes of Alentejo. And that, I can’t explain. One’s gotta taste it and ideally visit Alentejo to understand. #VisitPortugal
The starters / petiscos
Another thing that tastes like home is the Pão com Chouriço. Oh. My. God. It just tastes like heaven. The chouriço is Portuguese chorizo, so it’s not spicy. But it’s full of flavour. And the bread is definitely homemade. I’m not sure but I think they use a wood oven. And if it they don’t, well, it taste like it, so kudos. They give it a twist I haven’t tasted in Portugal which is serving it with homemade garlic butter. Which means an extra hour in the gym (if unlike me you’re one of ‘those’).
Yet this bread with chorizo has one flaw: it’s small. Although I’m sure that even if the portion was bigger I’d still want more.
Then we ate the Croquettes de Alheira. Alheira is a Portuguese sausage that’s not made with pork. So usually it can contain veal, duck, chicken, quail, rabbit and bread. We (me and João) usually eat alheira simply deep fried or cooked with scrambled eggs. So having a version of Croquettes (one of my favourite meaty snacks) with alheira, is a new one for me. And I love their version of it with their homemade lemon flavoured mayonnaise.
What they mean by small plates is what I’d then call petiscos. But maybe this is just me. Anywho, don’t get confused by my particular points of view regarding ‘name calling’.
Our first choice was the Octopus with sweet potato. I either love octopus or totally hate it. I don’t like chewy food. The kind of food you chew, chew, chew and it never gets to an end. It’s just frustrating.
The octopus was cooked to perfection, almost to the point of melting in our mouths. It then was slightly burnt on the edges. I just love that mix of soft and crunchy. Super tasty on its own, yet the sweet potato, parsnip, and cabbage complemented it perfectly. I like dishes that are diverse within themselves, so it doesn’t bore me.
Then we ate the Prego no prato / Bavette steak with confit egg. Now, don’t try to find it in this form in Portugal. If you ask for a prego no prato, this is not what they will serve you. You will still not regret it, so do eat one when you’re there. But it won’t be like this. This one is a different approach to the traditional dish, still, it’s delicious. Cooked medium rare, it melts in your mouth. It is mega tasty as well and I just love batata palha, which is the name of the thin crisps you see in the picture.
Ask for a side of bread, though. You will want to eat it until its last drop of sauce. And it, unfortunately, isn’t customary to lick plates at restaurants.
Our last dish was the special of the day, Bochecha de vaca / Beef cheek. I have to be honest: I find it weird to eat the cheek of animals. I know, I eat bum and legs of chicken and cows, but well… One has weirdnesses one can’t explain. My main problem resides on the texture of it, I think.
But João wanted to try, he really likes it and I know that if I control my weirdness I actually like the taste of it. And it was a great choice. Again, it melted in our mouths, was mega flavoursome and the cauliflower and truffle puré complements it really well.
Look, we were full by this stage. But desserts are thrown into different compartments in our stomach. It’s a ‘fact’. Specially in women’s bodies. Well, it’s more of an excuse, but, nonetheless, it always ‘fits’! There’s always space for dessert.
So we chose Baba de Camelo and the Pastel de Nata with cinnamon ice cream.
João loved the Baba de Camelo. It’s perfect for a sweet tooth. It’s basically condensed-milk and eggs. The hazelnut ice cream it comes with is awesome with real bits of hazelnut in it. And the salted chocolate on it has a ‘problem’: it disappears way too fast in your mouth. I can confirm it was lovely, but my body doesn’t take too much sugar, so it becomes way too sweet for me.
I’ve always been like this, unfortunately. That’s why I prefer sweet and sour stuff, salty and sweet desserts or desserts with two different textures in which one of them is less sweet than the other.
As to the Pastel de Nata, it comes hot (which I love!) and the cinnamon ice cream is a super original idea to pair it with. I usually eat Pastel de Nata with cinnamon on top, and ideally with icing sugar as well (that’s how it’s traditionally served).
Bar Douro’s Pastel de Nata is a very good version, although I found the pastry a little bit too buttery. For João it was fine.
Top it all up with their proper Expresso and the night is yours!
Verdict Overall: 5/5 for both food and service.
The only small remark I make would be to have a proper place to rest your feet, and maybe some small cushions on the seats. We felt slightly uncomfortable in the seating after a while.
It’s a small space as it fits around 25 people downstairs, and if you’re a group of 6 to 12 people and you pre-book, there’s a private room upstairs for you.
The service is better than standard and their rock & blues music playlist sets the perfect Portuguese cool vibe. The decor is perfect and even the toilet is worth the visit with its gorgeous tiles.
It’s better to pre-book your seats, especially from Thursday to Saturday during dinner rush hour. Otherwise, try your luck, and you might be luckier before 7 pm or from 9 pm onwards. It’s well worth the visit.
Challenge: Let me know your preferred way of eating your Pastel de Nata in the comments and why!
For bookings and more information, visit www.bardouro.co.uk