This invitation to brunch came at a most fortuitous time as to coincide with the recent long bank holiday weekend, even better, a damp squib of a week perked up at just the right moment, meaning we approached the restaurant from Old Street in an unexpected flush of warmth. I’ve walked past Barrio East a number of times but never really considered it somewhere to head to for food, looking far more geared up for raucous drinking from external appearances. Not to mention the fact that I tend to remain loyal to my coffee shops and independent cafe’s for weekend treats and caffeine consumption. But who am I to resist something a bit different for a change?!
Once inside, we instinctively gravitate back out towards the large windows flung asunder to welcome in a tease of Summer warmth, sit back and sigh in relaxed ease. Being here for brunch, we’re automatically drawn to the bloody mary menu, assisted by our chirpy waitress. Now, I think I’ve got to the point now where I’m going to have to admit defeat and say I don’t really like Bloody Marys; cold tomato juice, booze, usually too many bits, all just succeeds in turning my stomach slightly. I’m curious then to try the alternative amongst these which turns out to be a fine decision – a combination of pineapple, mint and coriander that you add your choice of spirit to, naturally mine is gin. It’s actually delicious; refreshingly long and fruity with a savoury edge and little boozy kick.
Food is a harder decision to make, a veritable orgy of brunchy favourites with a spicy Mexican twist. Brunch calls for eggs, possibly bacon, maybe avocado, definitely some bread and there’s myriad combinations on this menu. There’s a burrito, beans on toast, a nod to the full English, mushrooms, ensalada, lots of optional cheese and chorizo and even an apologetically healthy fruit and granola lurking at the very bottom of the page.
The boy picks Huevos Rancheros as I hope he will, a messy plate stacked up with tortillas, refried beans, eggs, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. My eyes are clearly bigger than my belly and although I think I’m hungry enough for the Chivito Sandwich, billed as a meat lovers paradise from Uruguay, I’m not fully prepared for the full on assault from what appears to be an entire back of pig in bacon form that is stuffed into a large olive bun, along with some nicely cooked thin rump steak, sweet onions and red pepper, an artery clogging cloak of white melty cheese, all topped off with an elegantly draped fried egg. Did I mention the potatoes? No. It also comes with a side of addictively herby fried potatoes. I don’t even come close to touching the lid, but that’s possibly not the worst idea, as I notice it’s smeared in more of the mustard that is a touch too prevalent on the sandwich base.
Service is keen and friendly but not too intrusive, in fact the whole vibe here is relaxed, sunny Sunday perfection. Decor is loud, bright and cheerily brash, a trip to the ladies has me flash backing to nights out clubbing; a long bar with barmen poised to create something less recovery and more party, party, black floors and a large space at the back that has dance floor written all over it, a lengthy corridoor down to the toilets almost physically vibrates with the bass from memories reverberating off the walls. I sneak back to that bright and breezy spot by the window for now, sip my drink and can’t help but think the cocktails may well be worth returning for…
Not flashy or fancy or perfect, but exactly what was needed for a lazy, sunny, Sunday brunch.