Tucked inside a railway arch within London Bridge’s Flat Iron Square, you’ll find Bar Douro, a splendid 35-cover Portuguese restaurant, within a beautifully styled azulejos-tiled room with a marble topped bar over-looking an open kitchen. Growing up in Porto and coming from a wine making family based in Douro Valley, I think founder Max Graham knows a thing or two about Portuguese cooking and vino. With several supper clubs and a stint in Carousel behind them, a pop-up platform where rising chef’s can showcase their skills, he opens Bar Douro in September 2016 with head chef Tiago Santo.
And why wouldn’t you smile for the camera?
Pataniscas de bacalhau £4 are salt cod fritters, fried until they’re golden – a puff of steam evaporates into the air as a broke into one with my fork. There’s enough tangy tomato sauce on the side to give them some zip. Excuse me whilst a purr with delight chowing these down.
Croquettes de alheira £4 are panko crusted smoked sausage croquettes hot from the fryer with a dot of aioli to glue them to the plate with a globule of the same on top. They do fried things splendidly here.
Tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colours £5 glisten with herby oil and sing with lactic tang with port vinaigrette.
We then get a tentacle of octopus £11, suckers are charred, the interior is pillowy, there’s also sweet potato two ways; crisp ribbons for crunch and purée for dredging.
Porca á alentejana £12 is a stew of pork loin cooked with flawlessly clams and hunks of crispened potato are thrown in towards the end so they hold their crunch within the tomato spun sauce dotted with peppery olive oil. My only lament is that the pork was dry, to the point of being chalky. Perhaps a fattier cut would have met the brief, this is just my 2-pence.
We then got charred sardines £6.50 with salsa verde, their pungent aroma was tempered when eaten with the fennel and red pepper braise. I forgotten how strong sardines can taste!
Prego no prato £12, a relaxed grained ruby red bavette came with a confit egg nestled on purée of spinach and crispy matchstick potatoes. I found myself swirling my fork through the lot to form a sauce for dredging the beef into. There’s nothing better than a good piece of bavette.
Mini sandes de pernil was a roasted pork sandwich with Serra cheese £4.50. But it was much more than that, translucent onions, shimmering lardo, and sharp mayonnaise melted into the fibrous pork and seemed into the lacy holes of the palm sized bun. Every bite had me asking for more.
We finish with pastel de nata £4 and cinnamon ice cream. By looking at the thing, I knew it was going to excel – the pastry layers were undeniably crisp and the glazed custard filling jiggled with the right amount of sweetness. It’s one of the best, if not the best I’ve had.
When did I go? Sept 2018
The damage: Expect to pay £35/40 per head with drinks
The good: There wasn’t a single dull moment with the meal, particularly stand out things to eat there the bacalhau fritters, that glorious bavette, pork sandwich and that oh so swoon-worthy pastel de nata. Do not come here and not order any of these! It’s great to see restaurants like Bar Douro and the nearby Casa Do Frango raise the profile of Portuguese cookery.
The bad: The pork loin in the Porca á alentejana was a challenge, a fattier cut would have done the job nicely, or perhaps less cooking time but this is a very small quibble in the grand scheme of things.
Would I go again? Will be hitting it up again that’s for sure.
Address: 35B, Arch, 85B Southwark Bridge Rd, London SE1 0NQ