It’s all been a bit quiet on the tastecard front recently. Work, life and finding nice places to visit has been a slight challenge – but I had a nice treat a couple of weeks ago when I took my key agency contact out for lunch around the corner from her office.
The Barbican Centre is an institution in itself. Famous for the arts and located in the City of London – it is the largest of its kind in Europe. The design of the building is Grade II listed and a brutalist style building – most people would think hideously ugly but brutalist buildings are very sought after and a big deal these days! I LOVE them.
Would you consider eating there? I wouldn’t have until last week, but largely because I didn’t know you could! However my latest tastecard adventure took me small plate exploring at their exquisitely designed Barbican Lounge.
I didn’t know the Barbican was so close to Moorgate, secondly I didn’t know you could eat there. I was intrigued…
Arriving with my dining partner, Becks, we could see it was pretty busy at the peak of lunch. We had made a booking but thankfully were shown promptly to our seats. We might have arrived pre-show. Either that or were amongst the city lunch crowd.
When deciding whether to sit in or outside we discovered the secret of the Barbican Lounge – their terrace! There out of nowhere appeared a lovely terrace which looked perfect for the fantastic British weather we are all anticipating this summer. That day, although a bit chilly, it was sunny, perfect for a graduation – which was actually taking place at the Barbican! We saw many graduates in caps and gowns. I asked one of them what the event was and was told it was a graduation for the Open University – how charming!
I wanted to sit outside so much but the weather really hadn’t reached that part of the year – not just yet. I earmarked a return visit to Barbican Lounge as it also has an outside bar which I am told is buzzing in the summer.
I noticed that the menu was mainly composed of small plates – another venue that has swooped in on the latest trend. This didn’t faze us – whereas previously I had always been a “this plate is MINE ALL MINE!” lady, last year I had to bite the bullet and accept that sometimes it was not cool to refuse to share my food – especially when I so often want to try others.
We started off with a couple of cocktails to whet our palate – well it was Thursday which is according to many, now the new Friday. Our waiter suggested two gin cocktails – Marmalade Martini and Basil Martini. I had the Marmalade Martini – which was very nice however a little too sweet for me. I was far more interested in the Basil Martini which my companion had – it was much more my style – not too sweet, fragrant and very fresh.
Our waiter asked if we had visited before, and once we replied no, advised that we should choose two to three dishes to share. I’m always interested to know what is popular and what waiters recommend so I asked what was good. Lots of fish and seafood dishes – which I love. My companion and I had the same problem – we eat everything – great so she allowed me to choose some dishes I thought she would like.
First up was the aubergine dip. So there is a funny story about this dip. When I was ordering a selection of dishes, it occurred to me that we hadn’t chosen any vegetable dishes – which worried me greatly. I love getting my five (or is it seven now?) a day portion on! I asked the waiter – “do you have any vegetable dishes?”. He said “errr, aubergine dip?”. We were sceptical but we still ordered it knowing full well that if it is a dip it’s bound to be mixed up with something slightly indulgent to make it a dip. It was still good though, a nice starter to the other dishes that followed.
The chef’s recommendation was Paella of chorizo, chicken & baby squid – a good dish to have as a recommendation as it was a hidden delight of sticky paella rice with a nice combination of pork, chicken and squid – surprisingly filling for such a small dish. I loved the home-made bread but didn’t really pair it with the paella – that worked very well on its own.
So these golden deep-fried balls were my fave. I’m sorry but there is no other way to describe them! I’m actually salivating about how good they were as I type this to you. Pea (that must have been more veg, right waiter? ), mint and blue cheese balls (YUM). They were out of this world. I think I fell in love with deep-fried ball like things when I first had macaroni balls last year. I was hooked. Those smart chefs in this world are always on a mission to make food more interesting. A simple pasta or rice is not enough – nooooo let’s deep fry that up and make it taste even better! These actually reminded me of Arancini, which by definition they pretty much were. The balls were served with a salsa verde and cracked parmesan which didn’t really do much for my palate. The balls were more than enough.
At this point, I was really impressed with the food, the choices I’d made and the help of the waiter. Another favourite dish of both my companion and myself was the Pan fried red mullet which came served with artichoke, green olive, chorizo and a parmesan cream. The combination of flavours was SO pleasing. Perfect lightly dusted in crumbs mullet, the vegetables contained the lovely oils of the chorizo and were very moreish – and the parmesan cream complemented the fish and was surprisingly light. We should have had two of these dishes!
We were overly happy with the service. The staff were very attentive but allowed us to enjoy our food without interruption. When we wanted attention we didn’t have to try too hard to call someone over which was very impressive given how busy it was.
The restaurant started to die down at around 2pm (a good note of perhaps a better time to visit in future) and more-so as the graduation crowd started to disperse downstairs.
As we were leaving I bumped into Shaun! One of 120 giant Shaun the Sheep sculptures, created by artists, designers and celebrities, are grazing green spaces and iconic locations across London and Bristol, before going to auction to raise funds for Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity and The Grand Appeal, supporting children in hospitals across the UK. What a great idea! I remember a similar concept in London a few years ago, when Fabergé had the “Big Egg Hunt”. I love the fact that the proceeds go to charity and the buyers have a unique piece of art forever.