St. Bart’s Brewery, owned by the award-winning winery Hush Heath Estate in Kent, is the new kid on a block just a short walk from the Barbican, The Museum of London, Smithfield Market and the financial flurry of the City. Well-placed for professionals and culture vultures, with a modern British menu and a luxe atmosphere, St. Bart’s Brewery is also well-named for discerning Londoners with a preference for locally-sourced libations.
The 120-cover venue, housed in a traditional building in keeping with its historical surrounds, made a good first impression with a crowd of curb-side drinkers huddled at its entrance. In just a few short weeks the restaurant/bar has obviously already gained some traction amongst the locals, most of whom had only just loosened their ties and shrugged off their blazers to enjoy a beer.
It becomes clear on entry though that this isn’t just a pit-stop for thirsty city boys (thankfully). Plus there’s an impossibly attractive hostess to even out the testosterone.
High ceilings, enormous film production light fittings, sanded flooring, moulded cornices, ceiling roses, neutral furnishings and polished metalwork echo an upmarket Britishness with nods made to the brewing process with copper tanks behind the bar, vintage barometer details on the sconce lights and mechanical cranks under the tables. The ground floor is a nice mix of plush and laid-back, with padded high-backed seating, metal chairs, wooden stools and buttoned velvet booths. Bold pop art elements spike the traditional theme with contemporary street art references in the form of paint-splattered walls, graphic star motifs and highlights of pink and red.
Upstairs it gets a little cosier with balcony seating, dim lighting and wood-cladded walls. The upstairs Balfour Bar provides a further little nook in which to sample British-only booze in the comfort of cocooning studded armchairs in floral prints, canvas and velvet. Close attention has been paid to make this environment as tactile as possible with elegantly-rusted table feet, textured seating, glossed brick walls, polished tiling, exposed piping, industrial lights and reclaimed parquet wood flooring.
Hush Heath Estate offerings are complimented by a British-themed spirits selection that’s great if you’re a patriotic gin drinker because you’ll be in heaven. Not so good if rum is your poison but they do have a small selection of rum from English-owned producers or related sources.
We started with crisp wine spritzers spiked with Skyes Chardonnay from Hush Heath, followed by their famed Balfour Brut Rosé – both were very good. You won’t even miss your go-to French champers – not only is the method for producing this English sparkler exactly the same but it’s also quite delicious. The Manager tells me it’s won blind taste tests by Frenchmen (no less) who selected it over Veuve and the like… London Meantime lagers are also available, unfiltered, straight from the brewery, as are British ciders.
Food came courtesy of Head Chef Kalifa Diakhaby who’s worked under Jason Atherton at L’Oranger and with Stephen Terry at Cecconi’s. To start we had Roast King Scallops wrapped in bacon with caramelized pineapple. The scallops were cooked to perfection (tricky to do let’s be honest) but the addition of such strong flavours of bacon and sweet pineapple went on to completely bogart the main attraction. A shared pot of Cornish Mussels with coconut milk, garlic and chilli was a tasty, more subtle twist on a classic.
The Pan-fried Sea Bass came highly-recommended and not without reason. Stuffed with lemon and grilled fennel, this light, herby fish was fresh and summery, seasoned just so. The romantic lighting made eating bony fish a little difficult but it was well worth any additional efforts that had to be made. Also a definite must is the Billingsgate Prawn and Lobster burger, served with lettuce, Marie-rose sauce and chunky fires. Herby, smoky, fresh and full of flavour, this is the only kind of burger that should cost over £15.
St. Bart’s makes good use of Smithfield Market with its grill menu including a meaty mixed sharing platter of Smithfield sausages, double Somerset pork chops, Cornish barnsley chop, lamb’s kidneys, rib-eye steak, roast bone marrow, duck eggs, grilled beef tomato, grilled Portobello mushrooms, frites and sauces. Any carvery cravings can absolutely be cured here. Be sure to supplement your protein-heavy meal with a side of Fennel fritters served with spiced mayonnaise. Yum.
Dessert included Cambridge burnt cream with a lemon Madeleine – an Anglicisation of a Crème brûlée served in a generous dish and dusted with sugar. This was good but if you’re looking to sample something a bit more ‘special’ you should end your meal with the Cherry Sundae Brownie – served in a tall dessert glass in decadent layers of thick crumbled, chewy brownie with hints of toffee, crunchy Amoretti biscuits, pistachio ice cream and finished with a cherry on top. A sophisticated mash-up of grown-up delights and youthful sweetness.
Good food and provenance aside, what really gives this high-end hangout a point of difference is the live music. We had the pleasure of dining to upbeat jazz and bluesy covers played on the built-in stage on the ground floor but we’re told that things can get quite raucous on rock nights – you can’t beat dinner and a show for value.
66 West Smithfield
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