Bar Douro

bar douro

I had lunch with Oli yesterday, at a Portuguese restaurant in Southwark called Bar Douro.


Bar Douro is a bit hidden away in a railway arch off Flat Iron Square, but once inside, the traditional Portuguese tiled bar (above) is stunning, which lead me to expect authentic Portuguese food and wine – I was not disappointed.

meio queijo

Oli had arrived slightly ahead of me and had a bottle of Meio Quijo Douro, open and waiting. The restaurant is owned by Max Graham of the Graham’s Port dynasty. This hearty Douro red is from the family estate and very drinkable at £23 per bottle. The bar itself, is named after Douro, the wine region famous for port, so this is exactly the right thing to drink.

combo menu

We ordered from the 3 course Lunch Combo Menu, which costs £11.50 – drinks are extra, but the price is good for London.

pataniscas de bacalhau

I was immediately taken by the Bacalhau (Bacalao) dishes and ordered Pataniscas de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters). These were perfect – a delicious fluffy mixture of salt cod, flour, eggs, onions and parsley, deep fried, with a spicy sauce on the side.

croquetes de alheira

Oli had the beautifully presented Croquetes de Alheira – crispy croquetas containing smokey garlic Alheira sausage (a Portuguese Jewish creation, containing no pork) and served with a little lemon mayonnaise.

bacalhau à brás

I had the second salt cod dish on the menu too, Bacalhau à Brás – shredded salt cod with fried onions and potatoes, bound together with eggs and garnished with sliced olives and chopped parsley. This was quite a big plateful and extremely satisfying.

pig cheeks

Oli ordered Braised Pork cheek with Turnip Top Salsa Verde. The cheeks were melt in the mouth tender and perfect with the sauce.


Being hungry greedy boys, we went off piste in order to try the restaurant’s signature dish – Octopus (polvo) with sweet potato. By this time, we’d had a couple of bottles of wine and it was a quiet day, so we got talking with all the staff. Our chef Joderick came over to chat to us and we were discussing equivalent words and expressions between Spanish and Portuguese – the two languages are both derived from Vulgar Latin and have many words in common, but I digress. Joderick described the process of cooking the octopus – he said he always freezes the polvo beforehand to break down the tissue and make it tender. He went on to say he steams the defrosted octopus for 12 hours before charring briefly and serving. This was definitely one of the best cooked octopuses I’ve ever had – slightly caramelised and smokey from the griddle on the outside and mouthwateringly tender in the middle.

pastel de nata

For pudding, I had Portugal’s well known Pastel de Nata (custard tart) – this was every bit as good as the famous tarts made by Lisboa on Goldbourne Road and comes with cinnamon ice cream on the side. Oli had a waffer thin taste, before going off to choose the port.

churchill’s port flight

We were unable to resist the Churchill’s Port Flight, a taster of 3 family ports – White Port (normally an aperitif), a 10 Year Old Tawny and a Late Bottled Vintage. Churchill’s was founded in 1981 by John Graham, who wanted to create a new family port with it’s own individual style – it is named after his wife, Caroline Churchill.

We enjoyed a fantastic lunch here and will definitely go back. The staff were exceptionally friendly and the food was delicious.

Bar Douro is at: Flat Iron Square, 62-66 Union Street, Arch 35b, London SE1 1TD.

About Mad Dog
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28 Responses to Bar Douro

  1. Eha says:

    I just love it when you post a quarter-hour before my lunch!! When I next hit London I know where to turn for advice! Share? Octopus + sweet potato + a wine consumption along my own lines , , , pork cheeks a newbie. . . . perchance you are the one to teach me to appreciate salted cod . . oh well, back to today’s stirfry 🙂 !!

    • Mad Dog says:

      I’m sure you can get octopus in Australia and salt cod is much like the fresh variety. Bacalao is slightly firmer than fresh (after reconstitution) and doesn’t require salt. Salting cod is a simple process, should you want to try it out. There are London restaurants who make their own. Otherwise, if they will let you import it, order some online – once cured it is impervious to heat and keeps for years. Enjoy your lunch – bon appétit!

      • Eha says:

        Of course I ‘can get; octopus here ,, ,. , mostly buy the baby ones I can marinate and grill in no time flat! Bacalao . . . . oh how my one-time Portuguese housekeeper tried to seduce . . . . Enjoyed my neighbour’s company: . . . perchance you know more about ‘savoury mince’ living in England than I do . . . well: preferred the company . . .

  2. You eat well, but I knew that 😉

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Rosemary – I’m sure you must have had French salt cod dishes which have some similarity to these. The wine was not unlike a good Bordeaux.

  3. jmcheney says:

    Oooh, what a fine meal you greedy boys had! I love salt cod & don’t see it sitting on the counter top in it’s charming little wooden box in the meat departments as in days of yore. But back when I was a young bride in the kitchen I made brandade de morue a time or two & Jannsen’s Temptation one Christmas. I Loved them – anyway!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Hi Judith – I love brandade, so if you enjoy that you’d love the salt cod dishes at Bar Douro, particulalry the pataniscas de bacalhau. I’ve never eaten Jannsen’s Temptation, but now you’ve alerted me to it, I can rectify that!

      • jmcheney says:

        I followed your link & read that recipe using sprats. When I made Jannsen’s T. that long ago Christmas time I remember I found a story about it the late lamented Gourmet magazine & I made it with salt cod & I think one anchovy. I prepared the cod & it was not too salty, just delicious. I will go to Bar Douro if I get back to London one day.

        • Mad Dog says:

          It is amazing that something covered in salt and as hard as nails can be reconstituted into a piece of fish that barely tastes salty at al!

  4. Flat Iron Square – what a fantastic name – I will follow the link. Croqueta – MY FAVOURITE!! c

  5. The cod, pastel de Nata and of course the wine and port – oh what beautiful memories you awoke of our stay in Lisboa. The only item I will avoid is octopus – bad memories Of Venice of all places.

  6. Nadia says:

    Now I really have to make pork cheeks.

  7. Ron says:

    Like Eha, I’m reading your post as the lunch bell rings. Boy, is this an appetizer booster. Bar Douro looks to be our kind of place. That polvo, as discribed, sounds so good. Now, to my bowl of lunch soup…

  8. Honestly…you two! What a fabulous (and bargain priced) lunch. Big Man absolutely adores salt cod, and don’t the Portuguese say they cook it 365 different ways?! Sounds like a perfect way for the two of you to catch up.

  9. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful bar! And how lucky you hungry greedy boys are. I had some Graham’s 1970 once and it totally ruined me. I adore port, but everything has been disappointing since.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Isn’t it! It’s almost like being in Portugal. Vintage port really is special in comparison to the cheap stuff, especially with some good stilton.

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    I swear, M.D., that you and Oli share the best lunches in all of WP. I would definitely enjoy the bacalhau à brás — but what about the octopus? I long for the lunch when I’m faced with 2 such delicious options.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks John! I was thinking of you when I asked the chef how he cooks his octopus and I did mention to him that I know an Italian who gets perfect results in a pressure cooker from between 10 – 15 minutes. I haven’t used your method at home yet, but I do have an octopus recipe I’m looking to try soon…

  11. Mae says:

    London seems to have a never-ending choice of restaurants. Wish we had time to find some like this on our last visit, but we did eat very well!

    best… mae

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Mae – there’s quite a foodie thing going on in Flat Iron Square. I notice you are a keen baker – there’s an excellent bakery in Borough Market (round the corner), Bread Ahead, the domain of Justin Gellatly, who was previously head baker at the St. John. They make an enormous loaf, aptly called a “doorstep” and get it blessed by the Bishop of Southwark Cathedral.

  12. Karen says:

    If we were ever to visit London, I know that this would be one of my husband’s first stops…he would love each and every course you both had. Thanks for sharing the tips on how the chef prepares his octopus to make it tender.

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