Bar Dining in Style at the Blind Pig:
Perhaps one of London’s best secrets, you can eat really well and for a fraction of the price in some of the best bars in town. It’s a good way to find out more about a venue where you are thinking of spending ‘a big night out’ – go along with a friend, as I did to the Polo bar at the Westbury recently and you can eat and drink well while checking out the service and ambience of the main restaurant.
Whether you just don’t want a full-on meal, or are looking for an informal dining experience, there’s a growing trend for bar dining in London. An OpenTable survey recently uncovered just how popular bar-side dining is. Over half of diners would visit a restaurant specifically for their bar menu and a quarter like to try the bar area out before they decided to invest in a meal at a high price restaurant. Personally, it’s always seemed like a good idea to me, you get a feel for the service and the quality of the food before you actually commit to a formal meal. And, if it’s not to your taste, you can move on without any hassle.
At the Blind Pig, the upstairs bar of Michelin Starred Social Eating House, you can reserve a table. It’s perfect, if like me and my friends, no one can decide exactly what time they want to eat. You can reserve a table and then pick from food which is perfect for grazing. There’s no problem if not everyone is there to start with, just order a few sharing plates and enjoy. Although, you might find yourself diverted all too easily by the wonderful cocktails.
Rather apprehensively, I started with ‘Slap ‘n Pickle’, a gin based cocktail which also includes pickle brine, lemon juice, apricot brandy and Wolfschmitt kummel – an aniseed and cumin based liqueur. Meanwhile one of my friends was enjoying a ‘Last Tango in Paris’ which came it its own ‘Blind Pig Juice Carton’ and was helpfully labelled 0 of 5 a day. The other went for the designated driver option of pink lemonade, which was a delicious mixture of fresh pink grapefruit juice, lemon juice, pomegranate grenadine and ginger beer. As she commented, you really didn’t miss the alcohol.
When it came to picking the food, we pretty much went through the menu and ordered a bit of everything. First up, some olives, fat plump and delicious, a pretty jar of hummus with some toasted sourdough and a jar of duck confit with crisps.
The hummus was silky smooth, perhaps a little tahini heavy. It is a matter of taste – one of us thought it was the best ever. It WAS good and I’d happily order it again.
And, more food was already arriving. Perhaps the one drawback of this kind of casual dining is that timing can be tricky. If you order everything at once it may well all arrive at once. And, if you decide to order a little and then top up with more if you still feel hungry, you can end up waiting around a bit. But, it’s a small price to pay for ridiculously good value food and drinks.
We did order two portions of curry aioli chips. If you are eating bar food, you are definitely allowed to order chips. Somehow when you are sitting in a formal dining room, a side order of chips seems just a little inelegant. But, in a bar they are mandatory. And that COULD be one of the reasons I enjoy myself so much when I eat in a bar…
We also ordered a portion of beer battered fish and chips, poshed up with vinegar powder and home made tartare sauce. The batter was beautifully light and crisp, the morsels of fish made perfect finger food.
Padron peppers were suitably salty and moreish. I have been known to spend an evening eating nothing else – and these were good enough for me to think I might want to order more. Or at least come back and order them again!
Chorizo dog was an indulgence – a little too heavy for me with all the small plates, a brioche bun filled with chorizo, montegomery jack, onion jam and fermented cabbage.
By this stage we were all really quite full. There WERE a few more options on the menu – a couple of steaks, mac and cheese with shaved mushrooms and ham hock with piccalilli and wild trevise. But, we wanted to save space for dessert. In fact, the bar has a relatively short selection of dessert options, but somehow we got hold of the main restaurant dessert list. And it wasn’t hard to be seduced.
Who wouldn’t? Desserts ranged from a delicious chocolate crémeux, salted caramel, mascarpone, espresso and a wafer thin almond biscotti through to a
delicate Yorkshire rhubarb parfait with ginger custard ice-cream, vanilla sablé, ginger sherbet.
My dish, of caramelised pinapple on a crumble base with (I think) lychee and vanilla ice-cream, was to die for.
We didn’t share!
Perhaps the best thing about this kind of bar dining is that you benefit from the relaxed kind of eating-out that has become popular, but without the queues and with food that is often exceptional. Certainly here and at the Polo bar at the Westbury, the quality of food warrants its own rating – and the cocktails are simply superb.
Disclaimer: I was offered a gift voucher to cover the cost of some of the food and drink by Open Table, in return for an unbiased review of bar dining at the Blind Pig.