Flat Iron Square. It just sounds cool, right? While it seems to be a less genuine place and more the inevitable result of giving a marketing team too much caffeine and a whiteboard, this sort-of-reclaimed bit of London, where Southwark meets London Bridge, has evolved into an interesting collection of bars, stalls and places to eat at. To be fair to Bar Douro though, a compact little restaurant that’s basically a little bit of Lisbon with an SE postcode, it would thrive anywhere in London. And, indeed, anywhere in Portugal.
While Spanish cuisine has been celebrated over recent years, the Portuguese have received short shrift which is a little insulting, frankly, given the Portuguese role in world cuisine. This has, of course, been documented in several places – including The Bluffer’s Guide To Food which was written by a devastatingly talented and hilarious chap, and makes an excellent present and can even be signed if you email me. I mean him – but it’s always worth repeating.
The spice routes. The global spread of pretty much every vegetable we eat today. Tempura. Vindaloo. Fish and chips. It all owes a massive debt of gratitude to Portugal, which is the third best reason to go to Bar Douro. The first, of course, is that it’s brilliant. The second, is that they have a three-course lunch deal for £11.50.
Shall I repeat that? Three courses. For £11.50. Petiscos (snacks), small plates (main) and pudding. For £11.50. Or, indeed, two courses for £9.50 but, I mean, why would you when £2 means you can finish with a perfect, crisp-bottomed, pastel de nata?
Cumin carrots, with sheep milk yoghurt, are sweet, soft, crunchy and powerfully flavoured. It’s a terrific dish, although the Croquetes de Alheira (smoked Portuguese sausage) just edged it for me: there’s a sharpness to them, a little sour bite, that brings to mind those deeply satisfying Thai sausages. Although, of course, one suspects, given the above culinary history, it’s probably the other way around.
From the actually not-so-small plates section, Bacalhau a bras (salt cod hash) is super – a great combination of rich flavours, soft fish and admirably crispy slivers of potato but, even so, is trumped by the simplicity and brilliance of sandes de pernil, a roasted pork sandwich with Serra cheese.
The rolls are perfect – crisp, crunchy exterior, soft, aerated interior – the meat yielding, tender and full of fatty flavour, and the Serra – a sheep’s milk, mountain cheese – the perfect creamy, sharp foil. It’s a wonderful sandwich and, if I was the sort of saddo who kept a “Best Sandwiches in London” list (which, obviously, I am and I do), would sit very comfortably in my top five.
And then the bill comes and, even with service and a glass of something, leaves you with change from £20. Dear London. More of this sort of thing please. Much, much more.
35B, Arch, 85B Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0NQ
Phone: 020 7378 0524