City slickers should feel right at home in this neo-classical former bank opposite the Royal Exchange. Despite shrinking bonuses, they’ll probably be the only ones who can afford the prices in the haute cuisine restaurant at the rear.
Fortunately, the bar-brasserie is more kindly priced. It’s a grand, striking space, all cream walls and marble, with a huge domed skylight above a circular bar, surrounded by high-backed stools for drinkers. Diners eat at tables and semi-circular booths; the best spots are near the bar rather than by the entrance, which is cramped and feels far from the action.
The long menu ranges from lobster to bangers and mash, including a vegetarian section. Our experience was mixed. Salade niçoise showcased quality ingredients, but a main of grilled squid with thai risotto was feebly spiced, and the squid tough and chewy. Coq au vin (from a black-leg chicken) with mash was better: tender, juicy meat, richly flavoured sauce, creamy mash – but rhubarb tarte tatin was overcooked and dry.
Staff weren’t quite on the ball, bringing the wrong menu and muddling dishes, but were unfailingly courteous. The French-heavy wine list offers much enjoyment, but you’ll need deep pockets.
Cocktails demonstrate keen mixing skills and quality materials. You can order your vodka martini with countless types of vodka, all of them pretty serious: Grey Goose, Snow Leopard, Snow Queen, Belvedere, Smirnoff, Absolut Level and Wyborowa Single Estate, among others. A bellini, meanwhile, may be mixed with lychee juice, white peach or blackberry purée.