St Bart’s Brewery – a great space on Long Lane
In the last issue of Barbican Life we commented on both The Cunning Plan Company and its new bar/restaurant venture, St Bart’s Brewery with a promise to review the latter in due course – and due course has arrived already! Indeed here follow reviews of St Bart’s Brewery and also of its sibling, The Bull and the Hide – a pub/restaurant/boutique hotel combination in Devonshire Row, close to Liverpool Street Station.
To understand these new ventures one has to go back to the Malmaison chain and its Hotel du Vin concept for which one of the leading lights was former MWB Property founder (at one time MWB owned Liberty, Malmaison, De Vere Hotels and Searcys), and presumably Blackadder fan, Richard Balfour-Lynn whose family home is the Hush Heath estate in Kent with its highly rated winery and cider orchards. At the time his MWB property group owned Malmaison, Balfour-Lynn was one of those responsible for turning the Fox and Anchor in Charterhouse Street into a pub/restaurant and 6-room boutique hotel , but after a series of financial disasters he sold Liberty and then MWB went into administration.
But Balfour-Lynn has bounced back using his Hush Heath Estate, which produces award winning wines (particularly of the sparkling variety.) as the progenitor of The Cunning Plan Company (hence the Blackadder reference above), which started with the Fox & Anchor, recently sold to Young’s Brewery, and has now launched St Bart’s Brewery and The Bull and the Hide (the latter of which which has taken the Fox & Anchor formula of pub/restaurant small boutique hotel forward perhaps to a new level.). One hopes Balfour-Lynn’s ‘cunning plans’ are at least a little more workable than Blackadder character Baldric’s were!
The next Cunning Plan has seen the group set up a British wine and spirits shop next door to the Bull and the Hide which only, as its name suggests, sells English wines and spirits (and Scottish spirits too) and is to serve light food as well so it will be possible to taste the wines before buying and have a light repast as well.
St Bart’s Brewery occupies the impressive bar/restaurant space on the corner of Long Lane and West Smithfield, a stone’s throw from St Bartholomews Hospital and also inspired by the stunning stainless steel tanks installed there. St Bart’s Brewery is thus a grand high ceilinged 120 seat restaurant, club and event venue. Full of natural light and elegant, contemporary design, the cleverly divided space lends itself to a number of special uses such as weddings and corporate events, while also functioning as an all day British diner and in the evening, a lively bar with live music. some nights.
We got the chance to dine there one quiet October Monday evening and were impressed with the food and the great feeling of space the redesign of the venue has allowed. We ate on the mezzanine level looking down on the main bar/restaurant area below and, bearing in mind this is a bar/restaurant rather than just a dedicated restaurant space the food was pretty impressive too with some quality dishes as well as bar-type ones.
St. Bart’s serves breakfast, brunch, pub lunch classics, light seasonal salads, and plates perfect for sharing. It has installed specially engineered stainless steel tanks which house Meantime’s London Fresh Lager, unpasteurised and unfiltered. And alongside this it offers a selection of craft beer, guest ales and its own ciders from the Hush Heath Estate. The wine list changes frequently to offer new and interesting products from around the world, but will always include the Hush Heath Estate’s excellent sparkling and still wine offerings.
I started with a cold selection of English meats served on a slate – a charcuterie serving, including English made chorizo, salami, hams, smoked duck and Cropwell Bishop stilton cheese(£8.50)which would not have been out of place at Michelin-starred Club Gascon nearby. My companion went for the salt and pepper squid (£6.95), again very tasty although she said it might have been just a little overcooked.
For main course I went with one of the more bar-food oriented selections, the Brick Lane burger, with a half pound lamb patty, onion bhaji, mango chutney, cheddar cheese and riata and served with chunky chips (and when they say chunky they mean chunky), lettuce and tomato – a really good variation on a standard burger (£13.95). My dining companion decided on black bream (£14.95) on the grounds that she hadn’t had black bream before, also very good.
Dessert was a very visually impressive shared cherry sundae (£4.95) – more than enough for two and perfect for those who like the old seaside type treat that a sundae provides – but I think with a little alcohol in the making.
We were given the opportunity to taste some of the award winning Hush Heath Estate wines. Hasn’t English wine come a long way? The Balfour Brut Rose and Blancs de Blancs sparklies were on a par with some of the best the Champagne area has to offer. Not too surprising, perhaps, given the soil characteristics in the area of Kent the vines are grown are similar to the Champagne region and the vinification techniques used are the same. But perhaps the red pinot noir was something of a revelation – served chilled it was indeed very good.
St Barts Brewery is open from 8 am for a very good value breakfast , and has an all-day brunch served from 10 am to 5pm at weekends. On Sundays there are additional Sunday roast options and some other main dishes too. Its a la carte main courses are served from 12 noon – 9.45 pm Monday to Friday and there is a dinner set menu option (served from 5 pm) which includes a kir royale at £19.95 for 2 courses.
It is yet another good eating out option close to the Barbican – and could provide a great venue for large or small groups given the layout includes several semi-private areas. It is offering Barbican Association members 20% off at weekends on production of their membership card.
St Barts Brewery is at 66 West Smithfield, EC1A 9DY. Tel: 020 7600 2705. To view menus see website www.stbartsbrewery.com
The Hide at The Bull
Striking pub sign outside the Bull (photo by Jennie Blouet)
And now to the Cunning Plan Company’s other pub/restaurant combination within easy walking distance of the eastern edge of the Barbican. The Bull pub and the Hide restaurant above it are in Devonshire Row, close to Liverpool Street station – but this is a venue built on the old Fox & Anchor pub/restaurant/boutique hotel concept. There is a great city pub (The Bull) which serves some good pub food, a plush first floor fine dining restaurant seating around 36 diners, and seven beautifully laid out hotel rooms/suites on the second floor. With no lifts though these are more likely to appeal to people travelling without heavy luggage. However it is just a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street main line station and in the heart of the City so could make for a great overnight destination for visiting business people who look for something different from the bog standard modern chain hotel room. Reviews of the package on Tripadvisor seem to range from superb to amazing with each review answered by management. A nice touch. There is even one by a couple who went for a meal, were shown round the rooms and stayed on for an impromptu sleepover they were so impressed.
The first floor restaurant (The Hide) is something of a surprise in terms of decor and layout. In this modern day trend towards minimalist decor – wood tables, chairs, floors etc. it is really nice to come across a restaurant space with really comfortable leatherette chairs (with the scattered occasional animal print one) and well spaced and beautifully laid out tables. There is an attractive bar so one assumes the space would be attractive for private hire too. Overall the décor is extremely welcoming and almost has an old city club ambience.
When we visited on a Tuesday lunchtime the Hide restaurant was very quiet – which is a great shame as the space and the food is deserving of far better. However we were told that evenings tended to be much busier. Meanwhile the pub downstairs (The Bull), which also serves a good selection of pub food was indeed busy.
As to the food – everything we sampled was very good – far above pub fare and, in fact far better than that served at many far more pretentious restaurants. The food is basically at the best end of British cuisine with European influences.
For starters we had scallops with chorizo (perhaps slightly salty from the chorizo) and Cornish crab and crab pate on sourdough with marie rose sauce. Excellent.
For mains, a lobster and prawn ‘burger’ – burger perhaps being something of a misnomer (we were forewarned in case of expecting something different) in that there was no bun, but the lobster and crab patty – with good sized chunks of lobster in it – served on a bed of lettuce – was described as delicious. I had a pheasant dish (pheasant two ways comprising Pan Fried Breast and Leg Croquette, with Celeriac Puree and Prune, Apple & Red Wine Jus and noticeably the pheasant had been hung for just the right amount of time to enhance the flavour. A side dish of beautifully prepared green beans – easily sufficient for two people – completed the servings. Service was very good indeed.
We passed on desserts, but there was a good looking selection, and ended with excellent coffee and peppermint tea. My companion washed her meal down with a glass of Balfour Brut Rosé which she has become quite partial to and I had a glass of a South African Sauvignon Blanc.
A two course lunch at the Hide is available for £20 or three courses for £25 which represents pretty good value given the high food quality and the very pleasantly furnished space.
We then got a chance to have a look at some of the rooms including two of the top rated suites – beautifully decorated, well equipped and good sized. A great enhancer was a shared pantry (a mini kitchen) where guests can treat themselves to coffee, soft drinks etc. This was remarked on very favourably by most of those reviewing the hotel rooms on TripAdvisor as mentioned above. Altogether The Bull and the Hide make for a great venue under the Cunning Plan with all three elements – the Bull pub, the Hide restaurant and the boutique hotel all earning top marks. Additionally in a new joint venture with Julia Stafford and her Borough Market Wine Pantry, the group has just opened an English wine and British spirits shop next door to the Bull in Devonshire Row under the auspices of The English Wine and Spirits Company. Here one can taste a great range of English wines – nowadays really on a par with, and often improving on, many French and New World offerings – and partake of snacks alongside. Richard Balfour-Lynn’s new food and wine empire is just beginning!
The Bull and the Hide are at 4 Devonshire Row, EC2M 4RH. Tel: 020 7655 4805
The Hide is open for lunch from 12 noon to 3.0 pm and dinner from 6-10 pm Monday to Friday and the same hours for dinner on Saturday. Meanwhile The Bull is open seven days from 7 am for breakfast (the Big Bull Breakfast costs £7.95 – or £12 for 2 people – onwards so can fill in the gaps when the Hide is closed. It also serves what is reputed to be an excellent Sunday lunch
Part of the interior of St Bart’s Brewerybar/restaurant
The Cunning Plan Pub Company is thus owned by Hush Heath Estate which operates a winery (renowned for its production of Balfour Brut Rose sparkling wine and a range of highly regarded sparkling, white, rose and red wines) and apple orchards (producing the cider) in the grounds of Hush Heath Manor in a delightful part of Kent, family home of Richard Balfour-Lynn, the originator of the company. In addition to St Bart’s Brewery, the company runs the Fox and Anchor nearby as mentioned above and The Bull and the Hide in Devonshire Street which is also generating great success as both a pub and a restaurant and as a 7-room boutique hotel.