Over the past few days, I've been under a significant amount of sustained stress the like of which I found most unpleasant. As such, when given the opportunity, Mrs P and I decided to find some minutes of respite during lunch times and found the Barracuda Cafe at the end of the highstreet. Over the next few days, we found that this place was not only away from the emotional rocket ship that was our charge over that time, but also a venue that hits my 'top ten places you never knew you should go, but totally deserve your lunch money'. Yeah, that's totally a real thing as of now.
Eating in the same cafe four days in a row meant that we made some friends. Giancarlo owns the place and runs front of house with his brother keeping an eye on the kitchen. And Barracuda is all about family; on the second day we were treated back warmly, by the third day we were practically cousins and on day four we met the chefs as well as discussed Giancarlo's hopes for the future career of his daughter. So yes, I think it's fair to say that we were made welcome.
The atmosphere over lunch is light, airy and the open kitchen smells great. The portions sizes are immense and when it comes to value for money, well, the prices are fair to the point of criminal.
We ate, in no order of preference:
A mountain of thick, soft, pink beef served on doorstep slices of rye bread with crunchy, pickley pickles. In fairness, this salt beef was so good I actually had it several times and at £5.90 a sandwich, this was properly good. The meat just melted away in my mouth and generally provided me with 30 mins of happiness from the inside out. We were assured the beef was cooked in-house which is just unfair of them, because exactly how impressed did they need me to be? At the end of the day, stop and take a look at it. Yeah, I want some more too.
A margarita pizza with dough so thin that even though it wasn't cooked off in a brick built, wood fired oven at 500 degrees, it tasted really good with a deep tommy sauce and creamy mozzarella, but more on that dough in a moment.
Next, a cheese and bacon burger so large that Mrs P couldn't finish it off - when you talk about value, a homemade burger this big for under 6 quid is frankly ridiculous. OK so it suffered a little from being a touch dry (a result of using meat that was too lean I suspect) and a bun that quite literally disintegrated during the process of eating it but do I need to say it again? This thing was massive. But then speaking of massive...
This was their piece de resistance, their final stand, the granddaddy of them all. All week, Giancarlo was asking me to try the Calzone, 'everything is fresh today', he said (every day). 'We make everything here', he said (every day). And finally the killer blow came on day four - 'I'm so proud of my brothers cooking that if you don't like it, it's free.'
Well, I'm sold. That right there, is a man who loves his family and he is right to do so. Not only was this folded pizza shaped beauty topped with fresh ragu but it was filled to the brim with some of the best salami and pepperoni that I've eaten outside of Pescara. Peppery, salty and uncommonly good, with ingredients this good, it's difficult to put a step wrong but to bring it all in for eight pounds is nothing short of amazing. The previously mentioned dough was showcased here superbly, as it was perfect for the Calzone style; seasoned and chewy. The ragu spooned over the top was deep, rich and powerful with the whole thing easily being enough for two to share, it finished off what had been a remarkably eventful week in truly suitable style.
As we left, Giancarlo demanded that we return for their dinner menu and sitting here remembering the food we had, I cannot think of a single reason to say no.