St Paul’s in the City is a neighbourhood that hardly beckons me from my comfy West London surroundings.
After all, I don‘t work in the City, and there are plenty of good restaurants between South Kensington and Mayfair, which don’t even require a Tube journey.
But, a networking event at the relatively new One New Change complex, built to provide lunchtime and after-work distractions for all those office workers keen to blow their wages on the latest trendy togs and fashionable cocktails, lured me east.
It’s also a great opportunity to try some of the new restaurants clustered in and around the eating/shopping centre.
Among them, is the latest addition to Gordon Ramsay’s empire – Bread Street Kitchen. And on this Monday night, the man himself slips past me at the entrance. It’s rare to see Mr Ramsay “working” as it were, and bodes well for the rest of the evening.
It wasn’t without a little trepidation that I suggested it. Ramsay’s menus have never appealed to me. There always seems to be one or two ingredients that get in the way of a perfect dish for me. Or maybe it’s just the fact that Gordon’s food, like the man, is very, very English and my taste buds, and I are very, very not.
But having glanced at BSK’s online menu, I decided to give it a go. Unlike his other London spots, BSK is neither a place for precious fine dining, nor a pub where he tries to pull off “gastro” fish pie. Instead, BSK has a New York, Soho feel about it.
It could be the black and white checkerboard floor, or the tall ceilings with exposed heating ducts, or the vintage dark green leather banquette seating and retro office lamps. Whatever the case, the large, open space with multiple dining areas feels distinctly different to any other London restaurant.
And the American influence on Ramsay is obvious elsewhere, like on the bottom of the menu, where it announces the Wifi code, and the fact that, also unlike almost any other restaurant in Britain, BSK serves food between 3-5.30pm.
They call it a late lunch, at the latter end, it could easily be a pre-theatre suppper. They also serve breakfast as early as 7am, a meal which has become far more fashionable to do business over, in these belt-tightening times, and encourage meetings in both the bar and restaurant.
None of these things should be terribly special, but London’s service culture is still evolving, so BSK is on the right side of the curve. But how’s the food?
Well, for starters, the menu is easy to read, divided up into sections: raw bar, salads, hot kitchen, wood stone and sides. And the number of dishes seems perfect; not too little, not too big. You can’t waste time wading through an overly long menu when you’re about to cut a deal.
But back to the food; it’s inventive. Dishes like crab and apple cocktail, and egg with aubergine, garlic and anchovies make a welcome change as so many menus these days are mirror images of one another.
We order beetroot tart and salmon ceviche as appetizers. The tart is good, but suffers from an overly generous dollop of goats cheese which makes the dish more fromage than anything else, and the pastry not quite flaky enough.
But the ceviche is well-flavoured, bar a couple of bites which taste fishier than they’re meant to. We move on to seabass served with razor clams (a treat in London), samphire, a shellfish dressing, and braised leeks, which are tasty, but suffered from the leeks tasting of very little apart from butter, when Ramsay should have done them in olive oil, or even hazelnut to keep the dish light.
A side salad of heritage tomatoes, basil and balsamic is lovely, though the chef confuses balsamic for pesto.
No matter, it’s still luscious. Though it sounds like we’re not happy, we do give the food an overall 8.5 on a scale of 1-10. And the atmosphere is perfectly buzzy without being overbearing. It’s that rare combination of busy-ness and good music, yet quiet enough to be heard from across the table.
All I can say about desserts is that the few that whisk past us look amazing, and if I wasn’t worried about calories, I woudn’t think twice about ordering one, or three.
This is one of those restaurants I wish I lived closer to. It’s got everything: ambience, a good menu, and a relaxed environment, and the bill comes without sticker shock.
Bread Street Kitchen
10 Bread Street
London, EC4M 9AJ
England +44 (0)20 3030 4050