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New Bar Review: Barrio Central

Published 21 October 2010

The name barrio refers to an urban district in a primarily Spanish speaking community, as well as those areas where like-minded people gather to eat, drink and party together. This is seemingly not just the case in Latin America, but also in London where Barrio in Battersea and Barrio North on Essex Road have become popular destination bars.

It’s from the Barrio North stable that Barrio Central emerges, bringing the fiesta to zone 1 via their new opening on Poland Street in Soho. Stepping into Barrio Central is a little like being hit in the face. But in a good way. Latin music pulses loudly around the packed bar, whilst brightly coloured walls adorned with scavenged items as eclectic as chairs, picnic baskets and pineapples set the scene. It’s undoubtedly cool, but in a laid-back way that makes it seem like no one’s tried too hard.

There’s a semi-private leaf covered indoor “garden” at the back, and tables tucked into alcoves are surprisingly cosy, but cosy is clearly not what Barrio is about. It’s all about fun, music, mingling and cocktail drinking.

The cocktail menu is vast, separated into geographical sections including South America, Central America, North America and Caribbean before lumping together Europe & The East and some ‘sin free’ non-alcoholic options as well as some wines. The signature cocktail is the ‘no brainer’ (£20) for two to share. It comes served in a hollowed-out porcelain Lucha Libre wrestling mask, of the kind worn by real-life Mexican ‘superhero’ social justice campaigner Superbarrio. The cocktail itself contains two expressions of Herradura 100% agave tequila, guava, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, lime and sparkling wine; but is arguably less exciting than the vessel it’s served in, with the primary taste being that of pineapple juice.

Other cocktails are much more exciting, like the Gunpowder (£8.50) which sees Havana Club Rum spiced and honeyed to create a sweet and smooth drink with just a bit of bite. The Mayan Magic (£8) is a rich concoction of chocolate, chilli and tequila, that’s sure to hit the spot. And the Hispaniola Spell (£8) is a more gentle, fragrant mix of jasmine, ginger, mint, Japanese shochu and Caribbean rum. Classics are done well, too with an 100% agave margarita and a really limey mojito definitely on a par with London’s best. View the full cocktail menu here in PDF here.

Such a focus on cocktails doesn’t always bode well for the food on offer at a bar, but Barrio delivers the goods, with sharing platters of steak and chorizo every bit as flavourful, tender, well-cooked and alcohol absorbing as they should be. It would be the cocktails that you’d come for, but the food would mean you could stay all evening – and we recommend you do in order to get through just a fraction of the cocktails on offer.

Tip: Amigo Hours special £3.75 cocktails are available daily 5pm – 8pm. Just sign up here for a Friends of Barrio card.

Address: 6 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 8PS
Nearest Tube Station: Oxford Circus (5 min walk)
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday: 12pm-1am; Sunday: closed.
Website: www.barriocentral.com