In a nutshell:
‘Italian inspired’ cuisine with some unexpected dishes, really great prices (for Chelsea), cool and casual atmosphere, ultra attentive staff.
Barbarella’ located adjacent to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’ FC’s grounds.. With it’s canopied entrance it’s hard to miss. Barbarella’s prices were great – especially for Chelsea. At the time they were also running a ‘back to the 80s’ type promotion where they served stuff from 30 years back, and at the same prices! Crazy.
We arrived on a relatively quiet day, the place seemed about half full, and were ushered to a corner seat on one of those luxuriant couches. From the get go you did get the impression that this was a well organised and executed operation, with the Maître d giving off that air of masterful culinary professionalism.
And as my +1 pointed out, it also evoked a feeling of the ‘golden age’ of Mafia controlled Los Angeles. Maybe something out of Carlito’s Way. The place was divided into a series of rooms, which gives it a kind of monastic quality which I quite liked. She, in her lyrical way, described it as something similar to a ‘fancy fetish club’. Hah.
Live music for the evening was provided by a singer songwriter playing an extremely intimate gig in the lounge area. When he was on his break the venue opted for classical music and downtempo electronica played at a comfortable volume. It all set the atmosphere perfectly.
The service was amazing, with eminently likeable and predominantly French staff going to great lengths to see our needs were met. Like all good wait staff they possessed the almost magical ability to know when to show up and when not to be there. They were pretty friendly as well, so after some good natured inquisition we got to find out a little about where they were from and the kind of foods they got back at home.
Now to the best bit…
Starter: Wasabi salmon tartare
I love sushi and I love tartare, and this was a new take on the experience, and I guess a combination of French and Japanese. It had a very rich taste but was very mild, not particularly ‘fishy’. The texture was soft and yielding, like any tartare. Definitely one of those things you’d either love or hate, and I loved it.
Starter: Sweet crab
My +1 ordered the sweet crab, which was served up on a crabshell. I tried a little, which I enjoyed. In her words: “…nothing that really set the tastebuds alight, with a pretty bog standard sweet chilli dressed crab. The only complaint I had here was the shell the crab was served in was quite temperamental, every time I tried to scoop up a piece of meat, it span on my plate, making it difficult to eat without having to grab ahold of the shell to get a bite of the sweet chilli morsel.
Main: Ribeye steak
Hell yeah. A simple ribeye steak done right is a piece of culinary perfection, and Barbarella did not disappoint. What can I say? A little seared out the outside and bloody enough on the inside, primal tendencies very much satisfied. This was served with a thick and hearty Hollandaise(?) sauce, along with with some rosemary roasted potatoes, which suited it perfectly.
Main: Herb roasted rack of lamb
My +1 (after some coercing from me) opted for the lamb. It’s hard to go wrong with cooking lamb and again, Barbarella did not disappoint. I tried some of hers and I gotta say I was impressed. The lamb was served in a sauce (I don’t know what – but it worked) and with more of those rosemary potatoes. She described it as being “literally transported to another dimension and forgetting where I was”. Which seems about right.
Side: Sweet Mango bean salad
We both opted for a side order of the sweet mango bean salad, which I also enjoyed immensely. The bits of mango were perfectly distributed, and the mange tout added some crunch every now and then that really enlivened the texture of the whole thing. I could/would/should have eaten a larger one.
Dessert: Fruit Salad
This was an artistically presented and delicious thing that I felt a bit bad about eating. I’ve had a lot of fruit salad in my time (not being a cake or sweet desert guy) and this is definitely one of the better ones. What to say? The fruits were varied, fresh, and there was a passionfruit in the middle as well, which is rare and thus gets extra points. I often forget about how much presentation can mean in serving food, dishes like this remind me.
Dessert: white chocolate and pistachio parfait
In her words…: “by far the best choice on the menu..with the juxtaposition of the raspberry coulis drizzled across it and the rest of the plate, making for a creamily tangy extravaganza. I’d say it was a bit nutty for my liking with a whole layer of pistachio nuts lining the bottom of the dessert as a base, which I felt took away some of the dessert’s charm…still managed to practically scoff it down whole though”
(…complete with minimalistic presentation)
All in all, Barberalla comes highly recommended. The cuisine isn’t too adventurous and it’s probably not the place you go with a large group of friends to catch up and laugh uproariously. But if you are looking for an elegant and quiet meal, or an emotionally meaningful experience with a special person, well, consider Barbarella…