Do you ever tire of queuing for pop-up diners that serve dog’s dinners? Or of ‘celebrity’ chefs who make you think: Get me out of here? Then join the club. This club – one that requires no membership – is the opposite of exclusive, and where the staff greet you with smiles. This way, Sir or Madam, we have a comfy seat ready, and your favourite drink. We’ll not tell you about our c-r-a-z-y new concept, or insist we get the table back in an hour. We just want you to come here, have a lovely time and go home happy.
Bird’s five, narrow floors cover the gamut from rooftop bar, smart dining room, lounge bar, private dining room and basement cocktail bar. It’s open from breakfast to dinner, then late into the night. Yet it still feels like a smart, if slightly rus in urbe, members’ club with its well-drilled service, laid-back vibe and Country Living decor.
Chef-proprietor Alan Bird has headed the kitchen at The Ivy and was executive chef at the Soho House Group, so it’s little wonder the menu also reflects a particular kind of modern Britishness. A starter of lightly soused baby vegetables had an intense, earthy flavour of carrot and radish – the very essence of a springtime garden. A deep-fried, breaded egg released its molten centre to cloak the crisp veg.
A buttery small sole was topped with savoury brown shrimps and the slightly bitter leaves of foraged sea beet and sea purslane. Calf’s liver was trimmed into tidy tiles then pan-fried and topped with sage butter, crisped bacon and slow-cooked onions; the simplest flavours are still sometimes the best.
Puddings that nanny would approve of included the irresistible pun of Bird’s custard with rhubarb; all that’s missing is the soft slipper for staying up late past bedtime, which is easy to do with such biddable service.
When I arrived, the restaurant manager was briefing the staff for the evening. I listened as they told the staff about slight tweaks to the printed menu, who the expected guests were and any other business of the day. I felt in safe hands. You will too.
By Guy Dimond