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Great food and views – and not just for high fliers
The City of London isn’t what it was – it’s much, so much better. At least from a drinking and dining point of view, that is. The time is long gone when the City was an after-work wasteland of closed or early-closing pubs and the nearest places to eat were Brick Lane curry houses. These days you can actually stay the night in a smart new hotel having spent the evening in some busy City bars, popular pubs and really good restaurants – like Aviary.
Set on top of the Montcalm hotel on the City’s northern edge, before it bleeds into high-tech Silicon Roundabout and hipster-ish Hoxton, Aviary is a light and airy rooftop restaurant and terrace bar ten floors up. The terrace looks to the south, across the City’s ever-rising Manhattan-style skyline, impressive by day but stunning by night with office lights ablaze.
Heading indoors, Aviary is comfortably styled in a modern take on Art Deco and has a relaxed, brasserie-like feel – one half is the restaurant area, the other the bar. It’s not a place where you speak in hushed tones. With a mix of City and techy types, after-work drinkers and diners, the mood is convivial and the background sound lively and jolly.
For drinkers, there’s pretty much everything you need, from house cocktails at £13.50 to bottles of Krug at £ 300. All the main champagne houses are represented. The list of whiskies is seriously impressive – Scotch, Irish, American, Japanese and Australian all feature. For those with champagne tastes but beer money – there’s always beer and bar snacks.
For diners there’s an appealing menu offering a range of meat, poultry, fish and veggie dishes plus some specials.
Stand out starters include the crispy duck egg which comes with thin celeriac strips, celeriac remoulade, truffle mayonnaise, wild rice and hazelnuts (£7.50). Cracking into the egg releases a golden lava of viscous yolk to coat the crunchy base of celeriac and roasted nuts. Fabulous. The steak tartare with confit egg yolk, blue cheese, pickled walnuts and beef dripping crisps also sounds good.
Although simple in concept, the Scottish salmon tartare with salmon caviar and cucumber relish (£12) is delightful, a slim cylinder of elegant fish.
Other choices include Lindisfarne rock oysters, spiced butternut squash soup, spring onion and courgette fritters, guinea fowl terrine, seared tuna and oven-roasted shell-on prawns.
There’s something for everyone on the main course menu, a range of attractive dishes to suit all tastes and budgets, starting with standards like Longhorn double beef burger and steak frites. Fancier fare includes roast chicken with black garlic purée; wild mushroom and chestnut Wellington; duck breast with grilled duck hearts and ginger and carrot purée.
Fish-wise there’s salt cod and fennel fishcakes, North Atlantic cod with mussels and pan-fried Brixham sea bream with king scallops.
The specials on offer are really flavoursome. The roast Cornish red-legged partridge (£24) is especially tasty. Alongside the two breasts, the legs are served lollipop style and, dipped into the intense damson and beetroot puree, they’re sensational. The puree is sweet but with notes of tartness, a great combination with both the partridge meat and the golden beets.
The pan-fried fillet of Atlantic stone bass (£25) comes with crushed new potatoes, girolles and brown shrimp butter sauce. The fish is delicious – substantial, soft and perfectly cooked.
There’s also a 1.4kg 58 day aged White Park rare breed beef rib with chips and Bearnaise sauce (£110), just right for Desperate Dan or sharing with one or two companions.
If you think diets are for the birds and there’s still some room in your belly, Aviary’s sticky toffee pudding (£7.50) is thoroughly recommended. It comes with slices of dried apple, some blobs of apple puree, caramelised apple, marshmallow and salted caramel ice cream and is a delicious finale. A port or pudding wine would be a perfect accompaniment.
Aviary is open pretty much all day from breakfast to dinner, seven days a week. The terrace is naturally a popular place to be in the summer enjoying the warm evenings. It is equally appealing though on dark winter nights when you and your friends can book to sit in one of the cosy glass igloos and enjoy a special package of drinks and snacks.
Ten floors up, Aviary is a cut above other places, a super spot to refresh and refuel.
It’s a no (bird) brainer….
22-25 Finsbury Square,
Tel: 020 3873 4060
Monday – Friday 6.30 am – midnight
Saturday 7 am – midnight
Sunday 7 am – 11 pm
Terrace closes at 10 pm
Looking for something different in the City? We loved the Northbank bar and restaurant – a more down to earth venue still with great views. Or for classic British food in the City, try The Don. Finally, Coya in Angel Court serves our favourite South American food.