The restaurants around Waterloo station and London's South Bank are all easy places to meet with friends, but some are striving to be a little more than that, as Samuel Goldsmith discovered on a visit to Bar Douro.
Whilst not always an obvious choice for a dinner spot, the area around Southwark station is becoming a great place for having a bite to eat or a few glasses of something. Mostly thanks to Flat Iron Square, a space that’s really punching above its weight when it comes to the quality of venues. One of these, Bar Douro, has quickly gained a reputation as one that’s not just convenient place to meet a friend near Waterlooo, but a place that’s a cut above and is striving for excellence.
Drawing inspiration from the cervejarias and tascas that are found in Portugal, Bar Douro serves up a present-day spin on classic Portuguese food. It’s not really a spot for a large group, but for a catch-up with a friend or an intimate evening, it’s spot on: small plates, massive flavours and a great drinks menu, served up by attentive and friendly staff.
We took the waitress’s advice and ordered a scattering of dishes and Portuguese wine to go with them. The first to arrive were the croquettes with smoked Portuguese sausage (croquets de alheira): smokey, full of flavour and served on a picturesque Portuguese tile. After a mouthful of one of these, you’ll be minded to remember you’re not in Portugal.
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It’s not often that a squash dish is a highlight of the evening, but in this case it was: squash, requeijão and pumpkin seed vinaigrette, in which the flavour and texture of the requeijão (a Portuguese creamed cheese) complements the sweetness of the roasted squash and the crunch of the pumpkin seeds. Not only was it delicious, but it’s always a thrill to find something on a menu you’ve never heard — and I’m not embarrassed to say I had no idea what requeijão was.
That moment when you start to feel full and remember you’ve ordered more was precisely when the onglet steak with confit egg (Prego no prato) turned up. Thankfully, there’s always room for more because the onglet — cooked to perfection and served with matchstick fries — was almost like a mini steak and chips on a plate. The spinach that cushioned the raw egg yolk was spot on and had the best garlic flavour – not too strong, but enough that you knew it was most definitely there. Another meaty highlight was the grilled lamb rump with kale. Seasoned faultlessly, it melted in the mouth. The kale that sat alongside gives it a sense of being healthy when really, we all know, it doesn’t matter.
To finish of the dinner, we ordered the Caramel mousse (Baba de camelo) which was half-way between a semifreddo and an angel delight, sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts for added texture.
Bar Douro has become an increasingly popular dining spot, so much so that it’ll soon be opening a second spot in The City. It’s a great location nestled in between some other great places. Being in the railway arches brings a certain ambience; the occasional rumbling of a train overhead adds musicality to an already pitch perfect experience.
Bar Douro, Arch 35B, 85B Southwark Bridge Rd, London — see www.bardouro.co.uk for bookings and more details.
How to make Bar Douro’s crab rice
Bar Douro’s signature dish is their crab rice, a sort of risotto with a tomato base that also has undertones of lemon. It’s rich, hearty and topped with delicate white crab. On paper it shouldn’t work, but it does.
The base of the dish is the creamy tomato rice, which in Portugal is known as arroz malandro or arroz malandrinho. This is combined with a brown crab mix known as spateira reichada.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 20g extra virgin olive oil
- 100g diced shallots
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon tomato puree
- 200g canned chopped tomato
- 100g plum tomatoes, finely diced
- 240g carolino rice
- 100ml white wine
- 70g brown crab meat
- 100g white crab meat
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 5g fresh coriander leaves
Heat the oil in pan and add the shallots, garlic and bay leaf. Cook for 4 minutes until the shallots begin to caramelise. Add the chilli flakes and paprika and let the spices toast.
Add the tomato puree and cook for further 5 minutes, then pour in the canned tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring often. Then mix in the plum tomatoes and simmer for a further 30 minutes. Season with salt.
Add the rice and white wine to the tomato sauce and cook until tender, mixing every so often. When the rice is almost cooked add the brown crab meat and mix together.
Squeeze the lemon juice and season with salt. Finally, scatter over the white crab meat and coriander leaves and pour over a drizzle of olive oil.
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