Twitter is a wonderful thing at times. Some twitter streams are funny, some are poignant, some are informational and some win you meals at good restaurants! It was by spotting a tweet from a food blogger and then retweeting Chiswell Street Dining Rooms that I ended up there as the prizewinner of their twitter competition!
Although there are a few well known London pubs and restaurants which are part of this group, I don’t think I’ve been to any of them other than perhaps for a quick glass of wine. That’s for no other reason than location. I tend to be in West London or Soho and the West End, very seldom in the City. And I avoid eating around Sloane Square because it’s just a little chi chi for me. Chiswell Street Dining Rooms is just down the road from the Barbican Arts Centre – an easy walk from Moorgate or Barbican tube and close enough to the Arts Centre to be worth remembering for future visits there especially as they have a pre and post theatre menu. There’s a bar serving a range of beers, wines and cocktails including beers from a selection of British micro breweries. I had a rather splendid Margarita while my friend opted for Tenterden Punch, made with fresh pomegranate, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Chapel Down Rosé Brut Kentish sparkling wine. The cocktails were very good, I haven’t had such a good Margarita since I went to the ‘old’ Savoy, but we arrived and ordered separately and it did take a bit longer than I’d expect to be served.
The main restaurant area is elegantly decorated and nicely laid out. It’s very easy to overcrowd tables and I was pleased that this wasn’t the case here. The wine list is extensive and compliments the menu by featuring a few British wines (mostly sparkling). It has house wines for less than £20, a good selection of mid-price wines and a few pocket blasting vintage wines.
The menu itself is clearly a labour of love on the part of the Head Chef Richard O’Connell. It is very focussed on UK sourced foods and our waitress told us that the meat is from select British farms while the fish is chosen from the Billingsgate specials. I was intent on trying the Hereford snail pie with smoked bacon and Guinness which had been ‘sold’ to me during the tweeting and it was really very delicious. Small, tender snails complimented by deep flavoured smokey bacon in a pastry shell. My companion chose the heritage beetroot and goats cheese salad and was suitably impressed too. As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been experimenting a lot with Beetroot for the last week or so, but nothing I produced was a patch on this! The majority of starters were less than £10, while main courses hovered around the £20 mark.
I’d just got back from a weekend in Cornwall and was very tempted to choose Cornish line-caught sea bass as my main course…but instead went for the Devon Lamb rump which was mouth-wateringly tender served on a gratin of potatoes with courgettes.
My companion’s guinea fowl was very beautiful on the plate but he was slightly disappointed by the taste of it. Guinea fowl is a poultry that originated in West Africa…but has become Anglicised to such an extent that I think I lot of Brits would tell you it was a British game bird…it has a milder than game taste, but a texture much like pheasant.
My only personal disappointment was my dessert, a not very sticky toffee pudding. Maybe that’s because I’d been spoilt by the local Cornish bakers over the weekend or maybe it’s because the caramelised plums that went with the pudding were fabulous – I’d have been happy to just eat a bowl of them!
My friend fared rather better with a Valharona chocolate marquise which looked spectacular and which I am told tasted very good.
All in, an impressive evening of the best of British food prepared with imagination and served with enthusiasm. I’d be happy to go back there again and our bill for three courses and coffee, including a bottle of house wine, two cocktails and service would have been just over £120. Perhaps worth mentioning that I did find the email booking confirmation a little off-putting, there are gentler ways of warning people that you may need to vacate your table after a couple of hours, and I don’t understand why the restaurant assumes a group of four or less should be allocated half an hour less time than one of five to eight. But, we saw no evidence of people being rushed…so perhaps that’s just an over sensitivity on my part?
Chiswell Street Dining Rooms
56 Chiswell Street
020 7614 0177