It was my friend, Annette, who suggested eating at Bar Douro; a recommendation from her daughter, Rosie. We were going to the Pierre Bonnard exhibition (absolutely wonderful!) at Tate Modern and planned to eat an early supper afterwards. Bar Douro was just a short 10-minute walk away from the gallery.
Bar Douro is tucked inside a railway arch in trendy Flat Iron Square, just off Southwark Bridge Road, where an increasing number of street-food stalls, artisan bakeries, bars and – at weekends – markets liven a once dull and rundown area. For some foodie excitement, this is now a hot destination.
I hadn’t eaten Portuguese food before other than the famous Pasteis de Nata – and no, I’ve never eaten in Nando’s. I had only a vague idea that it was a bit like Spanish food, but perhaps spicier with its use of piri piri. Lisbon is now a hugely popular destination and has been sitting on my wish list for at least a couple of years, though I haven’t yet got there. I was therefore particularly pleased at the chance to try out some Portuguese food.
Bar Douro was almost empty when we arrived just after 6pm but full and buzzing soon after. Luckily Annette had booked. I may not have been to Portugal but entering the bar with its marble-topped counters and beautiful blue and white traditional tiles made me feel I was being transported to somewhere very nice and slightly exotic. It most definitely didn’t feel like being in a dingy railway arch; it was lovely.
We were shown to stools right by the open kitchen, allowing us to view all the excitement of flaming pans on the hob and the careful and precise preparation of putting food on to plates. The chef greeted us, immediately setting a friendly and open tone.
A large bottle of complimentary (tap) water came and we ordered small glasses of the house white wine, Meio Queijo, Douro (£4.50). A large basket of bread came too with a small bowl of their own label extra virgin olive oil. I’m a real bread addict; I have always loved good bread and exceptional bread can win me over when it comes to restaurants. This was exceptional bread with that distinctive sourdough flavour. I had to restrain myself from eating too much and filling myself up before the main event!
Bar Douro is a tapas-sharing plate restaurant. The menu offered 4 choices each of Snacks, Garden (vegetable), Sea (fish) and Land (meat) and finally Desserts. Fish features in a big way when it comes to Portuguese food and meat is mainly pork and beef and spicy sausages; there’s also a Whole Suckling Pig option in Bar Douro, available on request. There was Grilled Black Pig Chorizo, Grilled Quail, Pork Loin and Onglet steak (ranging in price from £6-12). However, Annette and I decided to order a couple of Vegetable dishes and two Fish; but started with Salt Cold Fritters from the Snacks list.
We ordered just one plate (£4) and the fritters were quite big, so plenty to share. They were delicious and served with a spicy tomato sauce on the side.
We were told the dishes came in no particular order; just as they were ready. First to come – after the fritters – were Cumin Carrots with Sheep Milk Yoghurt (£6).
This was a mix of heritage carrots and a confident – but not too heavy – dressing of cumin with the thick, creamy yoghurt. It was fantastic.
Garlic Prawns (£12) arrived next: 2 large prawns each. Perfectly cooked; sweet and tender in a lovely sauce. These were great.
We had Chargrilled Sardines with Blistered Peppers & Shaved Fennel next ((£6.50) – two large sardines, so one each. Unfortunately I seem to have missed taking a photo so you’ll just have to trust me when I say they looked good and tasted excellent.
Our second Vegetable dish was Roast Squash, Pumpkin Seeds Vinaigrette & Requeijâo (£9). Requeijâo is a mild, ricotta-like creamy cheese.
This dish was a lovely combination of the sweet, soft squash with peppery watercress and creamy cheese.
I don’t often eat desserts but I couldn’t resist trying one of their Pasteis de Nata (well, who could!). It came slightly warm with cinnamon ice cream on the side (£4). It was a wonderful way to finish the meal: small and sweet – but not too sweet. We ordered espressos to go with them.
It was a great place to eat, with a buzzing atmosphere, attractive decor and fabulous food. The bill came to almost £35 a head, including wine and service.