New? Bird of Smithfield opened just off the iconic Smithfield Market in early 2013. A five-storey Georgian townhouse with two bars, one classic dining room, a private dining room and a roof terrace with brilliant views over the market top.
Where? 26 Smithfield Street, Farringdon, EC1A 9LB www.birdofsmithfield.com
On the Menu: They call it a “fusion of British gastronomy with French cooking influences” and the kitchen is headed up by Tommy Boland, a chef who has worked with the likes of Philip Howard (The Square), Eric Chavot (Brasserie Chavot) and Eric Briffard (Culinary Arts Director at Le Cordon Blue). The À la carte menu was exactly that, starters of tartare of cured sea trout and chicken liver parfait were followed by steamed loin of Cornish cod and roasted breast of chicken. For pudding, there were options of a seasonal rhubarb and ginger beer fool, lemon curd or French inspired cheese selection.
First Impressions: The Smithfield Market is the largest wholesale meat market in the country and with an opening time of 2 am things were only just about to get busy when we arrived at dinner for 8 pm. The downstairs bar is a bit of a shock to the system at first, with music so loud it was only possible to communicate with the host by lip reading and hand gestures. The upstairs dining room is a welcome contrast with elegant music, an attentive greeting, and peaceful air.
The Look: The feel of Bird of Smithfield is a classic one. Farrow & Ball would be proud of the colour palette and it features sophisticated lighting, marble table tops, and varnished wooden floors. The second-floor dining room is neutral coloured with a space enhancing mirrored ceiling, fresh flowers on tables and eye-catching artwork. A table by the window is highly recommended for a birds-eye view of the action outside of the market below. If you do make it up to the rooftop, complete with vibrant (fake) grass flooring, then the views over rooftops get even better.
What We Ate: The set menu consisted of three starters, three mains, and three desserts and comes with a glass of Prosecco for £30. Which is a great deal if you are looking for a cheaper date.
The chicken liver parfait came out as the winner of the starters. Perfect portion size and accompanied by hazelnut, a burnt sourdough crumble on top and the most delicious golden beetroot. The presentation was immaculate and extra homemade sourdough was ordered to mop up anything left over.
For the second course, we skipped the vegetarian option of hand rolled farfalle and influenced by our location chose the roasted breast of chicken and steamed loin of cod. The chicken, with lovage, grelot onions and ricotta gnocchi was juicy, tasty and fulfilled any expectation that their meat should be of a high standard so close to the market. The fish came with slightly undercooked jersey royals, seaweed butter, prawns, agretti and butter lettuce. A little too fishy for our liking but that is always subjective.
There is a miscalculation of the portions if you can’t fit dessert in after a couple of courses and Bird of Smithfield calculated just right. We enjoyed the lemon curd and selection of cheeses immensely, so much so there was room for the rhubarb fool too. But that would have been greedy.
What We Drank: The cocktails are a good place to start and with a division of “Clean & Fresh”, “Smoke & Spice”, “Smoke & Spice” and “Rich & Decadent” there is something for everyone at any stage of the meal. The Flor de Jamaica was a delicious tequila-based kick-off and the “Innocent” (non-alcohol) section delivered a refreshing Ginger ale, kafir lime, cucumber and cardamom number.
Go With: For a Wednesday evening the place was busy. The downstairs bar is full of an after-work crowd happily drinking their last round before home. Upstairs was more of a family affair with groups of four or five and later on into the evening smaller groups of after-work professionals.
Final Word: Bird of Smithfield ticks the food box, the service is attentive, the décor is well thought about and the quality is well expected of the price. There is however room for improvement, the downstairs bar is not the greatest first impression, especially as upstairs is such a contrast. The A La Carte menu is always limiting but suffice to say everything we had ticked a satisfied box.
Like This? Try These: Dean Street Townhouse, Oscar Bar & Restaurant, The Swan
Bird of Smithfield, 26 Smithfield Street, Farringdon, EC1A 9LB, www.birdofsmithfield.com