Ape & Bird

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
0 Love It
Leicester Square

This Russell Norman bar and restaurant gets a revamp to put it in line with its parent group, the Italian ‘small plates’ chain Polpo.

Take the back entrance into this fifth Polpo branch and immediately head downstairs. You'll enter a dusky, rustic cavern with bare concrete walls and a few flickering candles. This is where Soho and Covent Garden media types sip negronis until it's as dark outside as it is inside. It’s yet another ‘speakeasy’, what with its basement location, miniature dark wood stools and general lack of lighting, but this covert boozer wasn't born in the USA. Like the restaurant above, Dive Bar is Venetian-inspired (Aperol, Campari and Cynar mixes dominate the menu) and it serves some of the best spritzes in town. A great hideaway to know about in an area known for touristy pubs.

Venue name: Ape & Bird
Address: 142 Shaftesbury Avenue
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road

Average User Rating

2.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:3
1 person listening

A great spot if you're looking for an place to sit and chat outside Soho/Covent Garden as it's much quieter than a lot of the locals. The downstairs speakeasy-style bar serves great range of sours cocktails (expensive £8 for small tumbler, but good!) and big comfy booths make it a really relaxing place for a date/or just the kind of evening you want a good old chat.

The pizza had so much potential, let down for me by the toppings... just slightly left field the flavors don't seem to quite work together so if you're ordering I'd edge towards the plainer on offer.

Not a spot on the other Polpo venues, but worth knowing about if you're in the area.

Charles D

On visiting the refreshed Ape & Bird last month I was immediately hit, as I always am in a Russell Norman establishment, by the effortless quality and comfort in which he furnishes his restaurants. Yes this was definitely louder and more lively than it's sisters but it's Cambridge Circus - entirely expected in this part of town.

We had drinks and substantial nibbles at one of least two different bars (the house red wine is always excellent and tremendous value) and were then seated in the main front room with plenty of space even though it was really quite busy. Staff were attentive and on the ball with the exception of one main course which was confused with another whilst ordering - no big issue in the grand scheme.

Tapas type sharing plates are in vogue. No point trying to pretend otherwise and this like the others in the Polpo group focuses on seasonal, Italian inspired dishes. Let's get the P word out the way. Polpetto. No number of superlatives can do it justice. It is simply the finest food I have eaten. Light, flavourful and beautifully executed over such a range of dishes the mind boggles and then aches at the memory from a desire for more. This is not Polpetto. I'm glad it's not. This instead uses Polpetto as inspiration and carries the seasonality and Italian inspiration on to more mainstream favourites. I don't think it's snobbish to say this is more accessible than it's sisters, it's the reality of successfully catering to many audiences and pockets. 

We had all sorts of different dishes, too many to mention individually as we were a larger group but stand out dishes included an excellent, crispy Fritto Misto, a deeply unctuous Pork belly (yes it's everywhere, but this was a very good rendering of it), sharp salty wonderfully savoury ham hock with hazelnuts and radicchio. Some dishes missed slightly: notably a duck ragu that was too wet, salty (okay, I'm fickle!) and whose components were almost indistinct. The stuffed olives were and remain epic. 

Honestly, it's not the cheapest West End eatery but it's head and shoulders above most tourist establishment's in the area and whilst it's not as exciting as Polpetto, it's definitely worth a look in if you're nearby and interested in seasonal sharing plates.

Harry K

Time Out says "it’s much improved on the faux ‘British pub’ that it was before." Dead wrong. More fake than ever. It seems to be aping (see what I did there) the fake vintage cliche so beloved of every one of East London's least cost effective drinking venues. This is something that goes right down to the fake vintage photography on the website - you have to give them credit for attention to detail in that particularly tedious piece of mimicry. I expected to overhear comments to the effect of 'Yah, it's so like, retro', and (in that regard) I wasn't disappointed. Here one can gorge on the obligatory gourmet burgers, pizza and a range of bar snacks - sausage rolls, scotch eggs and other formerly working class foodstuffs, reinvented as something you pretty much have to take out a pay day loan in order to afford. A £5 sausage roll? How quaint. This wouldn't be so galling if they didn't get rid of a perfectly good pub and replace it with what is essentially another mid-range, faux-fancy, overpriced restaurant for the theatre crowd. Ape and Bird, what a stupid name, bring back the Marquis of Granby.

maureen e

Much preferred last years menu, rather disappointed when there were no meat pies just bloody pizza


Went to the back bar recently, but it was made pretty clear we weren't welcome any more unless eating. It was lunchtime, and the place was empty. This was quite a nice bar until recently with a good selection of craft beers, something this area lacks. Oh and they don't do pints any more, only half pints.

Arno Jones

I really liked the Ape and Bird. Wasn't sure at first - the Marquis used to be a favourite footie pub - but the makeover works and its now massive with two extra bars and another floor. Food is pub classics with some nice retro touches (scotch egg, welsh rarebit, mince and dumplings) and an already epic burger. Good wine list, unusual for the Polpo team, and HALLELUJAH they serve it in wine glasses rather than tumblers. It was rammed on my Monday night visit but the service (from Georgina?) was lovely and attentive. The pub part looks popular already and beautifully designed - stunning copper bar - but my main gripe is only 2 cask ales. It's certainly a welcome addition to an area that's poorly served with restaurants and bars.


Awful - went there for Sunday lunch with friends. We let our waitress know we were disappointed with our food generally and were met with utter indifference. Will be successful I'm sure due to its location and sister venues, but you'd do well to avoid.