Photo: Bar Douro
Last week I was up in London for the Lusophile pop up event and, while I was there, I decided to finally book dinner at Bar Douro as a treat after a long day of managing the shop. I had been meaning to go since it opened and finally made it down to Flat Iron Square with a friend I met 3 years ago in Lisbon while studying abroad. I had read some great reviews and couldn't wait to sample some of the petiscos that were such a highlight of my time in Portugal!
We arrived extremely early as we couldn't quite match up the restaurant availability with our schedules but were able to sit outside while waiting for the table and catch up over a bottle of wine. The wine list is extensive so we asked for some advice and were pointed in the direction of a red from the Douro: Churchill's Estate. It went down very well indeed. We also ordered a portion of the Pão com chouriço (chorizo bread) to keep us going. This came as slices of soft baguette-style bread filled with chopped pieces of salty chorizo: the perfect appetiser.
Once our table became available and the third member of our party had arrived, we moved inside and began to pick out our favourites from the menu. If you are sitting at the counter, as we were, the food is cooked in front of you which is extremely helpful when trying to choose between so many delicious options. After much deliberation, we settled on Croquetes de Alheira (smoked Portuguese sausage) and Pataniscas de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters) from the petiscos section. The croquetes came as four little balls of lightly-fried sausage meat and we were all pleasantly surprised, having expected something more akin to slices of saucisson. The fritters were excellent; large chunks of fresh cod in a light batter.
From the Horta (garden), we chose the grilled aubergine. Delicious thin slices of aubergine in garlic chilli dressing with lime zest, covered in a layer of finely grated 18 month cured Serra cheese. If there was one dish that I could have eaten more of, it was probably this one.
Our seafood selections were Char-grilled Sardines with Blistered Peppers and Octopus with Sweet Potato. The sweet red peppers complemented the sardines beautifully. The sweet potato came in the form of both a puree and crispy shavings, with a large piece of octopus sitting on top. The mix of textures in this dish was quite spectacular. Finally, we devoured a portion of the Leitão - suckling pig with homemade crisps and pepper sauce - which just melted in the mouth.
Photo: Determined Diner
To finish, we decided to share a couple of desserts: the cheese board and one pastel de nata with cinnamon ice cream. Strangely, I think the highlight of the cheese board was in fact the crackers which had a slightly sweet aftertaste. The pastel de nata was completely authentic with crisp, flaky pastry and that silky custard filling. Whereas traditionally the cinnamon would be sprinkled over the top, here it came as a scoop of ice cream to make the dish seem like more of a dessert than a coffee shop pastry. We paired these desserts with a glass of Churchill's 10 Year Old Tawny Port and an espresso.
The atmosphere was fantastic, without being too rowdy. There are some traditional decoration choices such as Portuguese tiles to clad the bar and a large mural on the wall. Wood and metal bar stools are in keeping with the industrial vibe of the restaurant's railway arch setting. This is a brilliant choice for a midweek meal with friends, although I recommend booking in advance as there wasn't a spare seat in the house.
Dinner for 3 came to £130 including drinks and service. This might seem steep, however I find that these 'sharing' meals typically end up being more expensive. My overall feeling was that it was worth it.