Broadgate, a growing hub for food and culture in the Square Mile, is only getting more appealing as Max Graham’s new restaurant Bar Douro City opens in Finsbury Avenue Square.
His first spot down in Flat Iron Square has already become somewhat of a local institution, with his homey yet sleek style of Portuguese dining bringing the foodies in from all over.
And none of this is lost in the new Bar Douro City. The small restaurant fits only about 40 or so diners on tables and stools up at the kitchen pass but it still manages to feel big and busy.
This kind of relaxed yet noisy atmosphere can be hard to find in the City – with so many spots being vast and formal. Everyone on their best behaviour. This isn’t Bar Douro’s vibe.
Unstuffy service paired with waiters who have strong opinions about the food and wine options make you feel like you’re in a proper family- run Portuguese eatery. And the strong smells of garlic and fresh seafood streaming out of the open kitchen only heighten all of this.
But before you jump into all the food, let’s talk wine. Max is a wine master, filling the extensive menu with wines from all over Portugal.
By-the-glass options are probably the best way to get started as they provide a really decent variety when it comes to flavour, region and price. And, unlike so many other places you go to these days, the higher up in price you go, the better each wine tastes.
We don’t know about you, but sometimes we splurge on the expensive bottles just to find they taste as good as the house wine. That’s not the case here.
Then comes the tapas-style food. The menu is broken down into snacks, garden, sea and land dishes. We kicked things of with their suckling pig sandwiches and were honestly won over immediately. These tasted just like similar snacks we savoured when eating around Lisbon’s famous food markets.
We’d guiltily buy larger version of these super greasy sandwiches for lunch any and every day of the week. It is honest food. Unpretentious and full of simple flavours.
Take the garlic prawns as another example of this. These bad boys come drenched in a thick garlic sauce made for mopping up with all the sourdough bread you can get your hands on.
The giant butter beans served with cured egg yolks and charred leeks are also a win – this time a little less punchy than the much-loved garlic overload of the prawns. There’s a decent balance of flavours on this menu.
And the beans are cooked to perfection all the while being drenched in oil. They almost have the consistency of potatoes – something we can never accomplish when cooking them at home.
And the Iberica Pork cooked rare, served with kale and meaty bread crumbs is the meat eater’s dream. The top quality pork is cooked rare and covered in even more meaty drippings to make it a great alternative to the usual steak options served around the City.
Finish it all off with their strong Azeitão DOP cheese (they could do with a whole heap of extra crackers though) and a round of port for the table. Portugal, after all is the birthplace of port, so these guys naturally have some of the best hiding behind the bar.
Bar Douro is a refreshingly young and relaxed dining destination in the City of London – reacting to the younger workers and residents in the area who want more than the usual steakhouse and cigar smoke-filled private member’s club. And it doesn’t hurt that the authentic Portuguese food and drink offerings are pretty damn spectacular.