For a resident of the Barbican complex, a short stroll across the highwalk can bring you to what should be a great bar and restaurant right next to the Museum of London. The location is good, there is an outside area for alfresco drinking and dining which should appeal, it has a large bar area with tables at which one can also eat and a partly separated lounge area. In all sounds like the kind of place one could head along to for a pleasant alfresco lunch when the sun is shining, or a light meal and drink at lunchtime or in the evening.
However the food we sampled on a recent visit lets it down – or perhaps we were just there on a bad evening. The menu appears to have been dumbed down to appeal more to Museum of London visitors and for those who want a quick bite with their drink. More bar food than restaurant food nowadays – and what we sampled there just wasn’t that good anyway.
There were no starters on the menu and a limited offering of main courses plus some specials (which were not immediately apparent) – and for what is actually on offer it’s not particularly low cost either. The saving grace may well be the freshly made pizzas from the new pizza oven but even here their special pizza of the day was already off the menu by 7 pm.
My dining companion chose the Beef meatballs, parmesan, rigatoni pasta, roasted tomato sauce, cheddar, sourdough crumb (£11.50). The meatballs were served in a skillet and, I have to say, looked pretty good but was told that they were a little ordinary as was the sauce. She did say, though, that the dressed salad ordered as a side was very fresh and good. I plumped for the beef and bone marrow burger and one has to say for £12.00 was, to say the least, a little disappointed. The meat was presumably prepared on site as it did not appear to be in the form of a bought-in patty and it was fairly tasty, but on the dry side and perhaps a little overdone from the medium requested. It was served however in a pretty mediocre bun with a single lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato. For the price one feels that the restaurant could do better with both preparation and presentation. A well presented burger can be something of a work of art – this was not! In today’s restaurant business presentation appears to be almost as important as taste. Perhaps the restaurateur should learn from that. The accompanying chips were OK and served, as seems to be the fashion nowadays in a small conical paper cup. We did have onion rings on the side which were nice and crispy.
Then to dessert. I had apple crumble (£5.50). My recollection of apple crumble is that the ‘crumble’ part is prepared with sugar, butter and flour, but I’m not sure what the topping was here. I do wish restaurants wouldn’t try to ‘improve’ on traditional classics. The other dessert we tried sounded interesting – the Italian Zeppole with caramel dipping sauce – effectively small doughnuts (also £5.50). These were very solid – indeed were difficult to cut into – perhaps stale? – the zeppole were served in a paper bag with the dipping sauce in a separate dish. Again, not impressed.
We had a very pleasant bottle of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc with the meal. The wine list is quite short with house wines coming in at £19.50.
For two courses, a couple of sides, a bottle of mineral water and a bottle of house wine it would be difficult to get away with less than around £35 a head. Not costly for the area one supposes – but not exactly gourmet food either!
So not a great experience on our visit – but as I said maybe an off-day. Looking at the internet there are positive comments – the fish and chips which is often on as a special seems to come in for some praise as do the pizzas. The location and ambience are fine and, as mentioned above, one can eat at tables outside overlooking the Museum’s sunken garden. Perhaps a pleasant warm summer evening, or lunchtime, venue for a light meal and a drink or two but don’t expect too much from the food and that way you won’t be too disappointed – and if it improves you could be pleasantly impressed. With the limited menu, being primarily burgers, salads and grills it shouldn’t be too hard to fix.
The website notes the relaxing lounge and wide range of draft beers and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as combining to create an ideal spot for some evening drinks. The bar itself is, due to its location, a little less crowded than many city venues – and all the better for that and certainly looks to be somewhere pleasant to take a guest or colleague to, have a good chance of finding somewhere to sit and actually get to hear what they are saying!
It is open for breakfast from 9am as well as for lunch and dinner and also for tea, coffee and cakes through the day. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 9 am to 11 pm, and from 12 noon to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays. The official address is 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN but it is not directly accessible from street level but from podium level right next to the Museum of London main entrance.