Living in the Barbican we are seemingly blessed with a substantial number of restaurants all within a few hundred yards of our dwelling places, but some are noticeably better than others in terms of gourmet-style dining while others may be more suited to the more casual, and perhaps due to pricing, more frequent dining occasions.
One which does fall into the gourmet dining category is Chiswell Street Dining Rooms (CSDR) and a recent dinner there certainly did not disappoint. The restaurant is probably the ETM Group’s flagship gourmet restaurant, with others run by Ed and Tom Martin’s restaurant company mostly gastropubs and bar/restaurants. Indeed one of its gastropubs, The Jugged Hare, occupies the western end of the old Whitbread Brewery buildings on Chiswell Street from CSDR and they are both connected to the Montcalm hotel which occupies the space in between.
CSDR serves mostly British-style food – which is nowadays an excellent culinary choice for gourmet eating out. The main restaurant is well appointed – comfortable chairs and banquettes and polished wooden topped tables. The bar area at the entrance seems to be a popular choice for cocktails and there is a separate bar menu available.
The entrance cocktail bar

Part of the very comfortably appointed restaurant
Since it’s been open I have had several meals at the restaurant and most have been excellent. There was one occasion where the food perhaps was below the usual standards, but this time around virtually everything my dining companion and I sampled was at the top end of the scale.
For myself we chose what was for me a lucky day – the 13th of August – the day after the Glorious 12th – and freshly shot grouse was on the menu, head chef Pieter Fitz-Dreyer having been up to Yorkshire the previous day to secure supplies for his own restaurant and for the Jugged Hare. Indeed doubly lucky in that I am told that grouse is in short supply this year.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the starters or even with the excellent warm part loaf of bread brought to the table. For my appetiser I had the kid goat terrine (£9) which was very good, while my companion went for the Brixham crab and brown crab with water melon and sea kale (£13.50) beautifully presented and a delight to eat.
And then for the mains. Roast grouse with the trimmings (£35 – ok expensive, but for the second day of the season, specially fetched from the wilds of the north, and with grouse apparently in short supply this year, probably a bargain), again nicely served and I have to say it was beautifully tender and cooked to perfection, just very slightly pink. Justified the choice. However if the grouse had not been available I would have gone for the daily special – a half lobster served along with a gin and tonic, all at a ludicrously low cost of £15! A guy eating alone and sitting nearby had that and it certainly looked good.

RoastGrouse[1]Roast grouse as served at both Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and The Jugged Hare
My lady friend chose the pork belly with seared scallop, carrot and sesame purée, samphire, cockle dressing (£22) which she declared was one of the best restaurant dishes she’d tasted.
And so to desserts (all at £7). Both being fairly full after the starters and main courses we went for the lighter options. I had the raspberry bavarois , lime and basil sorbet, raspberry gel – delicious, while my colleague chose the Vanilla yoghurt panna cotta, blood peach jelly, white chocolate and chai macaroon which she declared was the highlight of her meal. Two satisfied customers then!
Chiswell Street Dining Rooms is thus certainly not the lowest cost restaurant close at hand, but is probably the nearest we have with a true gourmet style offering and when its good, as it was on the occasion of our visit – it’s very very good!
Chiswell Street Dining Rooms is at No 56 Chiswell Street, EC1Y 4SA. Email: Tel: 020 7614 0177
General Opening times: Monday – Wednesday: 11.30am – midnight, Thursday – Friday: 11.30am – 1am
Kitchen opening times: Lunch: 11.45am-3.30pm, Afternoon Tea: 3.30pm-6pm, Pre-theatre: 5.30pm-6.30pm (latest orders at 6.30pm), Dinner: 5.45pm-11pm, Post-theatre: 10pm-10.45pm (latest orders at 10.45pm). Bar Food 11.45am -11pm