Barcelos brings Portugese Flair to HVK
Funky place and funky food.
So Barcelos HKV is a few steps away from where the Hauz Khas Village entrance seals off the wheels. For those of us who thought Bootlegger is the quickest place you can reach in Delhi’s international cafès’ and confectioners’ village, you will be forced to reconsider your opinion.
So my food blogger team was famished and they made a fuss-free entrance into Barcelos, this sunless December afternoon. The place was cheerfully lit up with yellow tungstens, which set off the wood-finished seating arrangements to perfection. It was neither dingy nor roomy – just quite comfortable.
We chose a sofa against the plush walls, splashed with pictures of everything Portuguese and even a note on the legend of Barcelos. The music was a bit loud, what with pop songs that started to play from the middle and Spanish songs in a Portuguese restaurant (just because they sound exotic, perhaps), was setting the mood for us to grab on to this cuisine for good…
We began with tall glasses of green-coloured Kiwi Molecular Mocktail and platter after platter of vegetarian fare. The superflous bar menu with bright colored coolers in orange, yellow, and pink colours, turned out to be simple, very subtly flavoured soda-water made from kiwis, mangoes, lemons, and roses respectively – with a volume of liquid nitrogen topping them off. I do not like straws so I sipped them straight off the glasses, each of which sadly took 45 min to arrive at our table of three.
There are a lot of things you could do with vegetables apparently, as Barcelos HKV showed us. Slice and smoke the paneers, stuff and steam the potatoes with a bizarre filling you would have a hard time identifying, roast the broccoli and the pineapple – and add a luxuriant coat of piri piri to it all. Then arrived the burgers that we were waiting for!
The Portuguese never seem to have enough of piri piri, Barcelos would have you believe. Even the burgers – two black and two red – had more piri piri than cheese to accompany the tomato, cabbage, and potato layers within. The chicken burgers, too had so much piri piri slapped on them, I enjoyed that hot saucy flavour but I am not sure how the rest of the world would like it. Here are a couple of things you should know if you are a burger aficionado and are planning a trip to Barcelos.
You may have observed the coloured-burgers brouhaha with some interest. Barcelos have gone out of their way to dye their burger buns without food colouring. Indeed the red on the buns is because of the beetroot that serves to heighten the flavours between, but the black owes its unusual appearance to chocolate, which least complements the generous piri piri between the buns.
Barcelos clearly do not know what they want out of the cutlet within the vegetarian burgers. It was neither half-done nor was it smoked up. The smokey piri piri flavours will not rise to the roof of your mouth from a bite off the vegetarian burger as they will from the highly textured chicken burgers.
The Greek and chicken platters arrived relatively quickly. The usual pita, falafel, and sesame-embedded wafers with four different types of dips including a hummus with diced vegetables and a cheese-like aubergine paste topped with black olive rings.
The only remarkable thing about the Greek platter was the delicate texture of the bread-basket. Coming down to the non veg platter, the meats were done to enough softness to slide off the bones at a moderately gentle dig of the fork and you could probably keep at it till the piri piri gets at your gut. And the espetada, which came with a fine portion of thick French fries and potato wedges against a cheesy yet peppery dip, took some time getting off their stick (definitely not bay leaf). It consisted of chunks of piri piri-laced chicken wrapped in layers of flattened-out piri piri-laced chicken and punctuated with piri piri-laced capsica. When I cut one chunk up and put it in my mouth, the piri piri came on too strong for me to continue with the espetada, what with nothing of the seductive smokiness that the traditional Portuguese dish is all about.
“What are we having for dessert?” I asked my fellow gourmand.
“Piri piri brownie,” he chuckled.
They confused three dessert platters for one and we had again to place a second and a third order before they could get it right. A rich chocolate cake served on an ebony platter, like the rest of the courses of course, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with a matte silver enamel and shapely but tough biscotties. Smooth, spongey layers infused abundantly with sweet chocolate and sealed with a thick enamel of chocolate on the top. Forget the accompanying ice-cream and the elastic biscotties – to think a classic chocolate cake could make all that piri piri worth it!