Passing through the silent cobbled streets of Farringdon you turn the corner to find a cosy fairy-lit pub on one side and a wine bar on the other. The best surprise of all was stumbling upon Bourne & Hollingsworth with the huge painted front and enormous swaying Union Jack, confirmation that we had indeed been heading in the right direction.
In honour of new executive chef, Adam Gray, and his new winter menu, a press dinner was held at a huge marble-topped table in the greenhouse area. Part jungle, part luxurious garden nursery, the greenhouse was the perfect area for a big dinner and absolutely where I’d request a table next time I visit (bottomless brunch, anyone?). It’s worth noting that it didn’t have that warm, stale smell of enclosed ferns, ivy and palms associated with the word ‘greenhouse’.
Gray has worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Skylon and Rhodes Twenty Four, which received a Michelin star and three AA rosettes during his time there. A cold poached salmon and fennel starter was delicately presented with a (strong) Quincy Collins and allowed plenty of room for my main. Cornish Plaice with rhubarb, chard and parsley sauce was paired – coincidentally – with my favourite white; Plo de l’Isabelle Picpoul de Pinet. The fish was well cooked but I found the rhubarb a bit tough and the swiss chard a bit overpowering. Food envy/observational research leads me to recommend the wild mushroom tartlet starter and braised ox cheek main – I heard nothing but good things. The highlight of my meal was the pudding. Saving the best till last I was really quite smug when everyone complained of being too full for something sweet. A childhood favourite of mine, the warm vanilla rice pudding wasn’t too stodgy and, topped with a scoop of yogurt sorbet and a sprinkling of crumbled crunchy oats, was a civilised take on nostalgia.
The bustly Wednesday evening I was there hosted groups of friends piled on sofas, and couples dining contentedly in alcoves near the greenhouse. For a little more privacy and a larger group I loved the private dining room; dark blue walls and wooden shutters closing it off from the bar area. My design envy continued when I went downstairs. I’m one of those weird people who judges a place by it’s loos. What’s the point in a beautifully designed restaurant if it stops beyond the immediate four walls? A full size bathtub acted as the sink with luxurious rolled hand towels which, in case you had any doubts this far confirmed, yep, this really is very nice.
The food was good, cocktails were better, but it was the actual venue – wonderful staff and gorgeous design – which was the highlight for me, and why I’ll be returning for brunch very soon.