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BARBICAN LIFE


old Vic Naylor’s and then the shortlived , and much-lamented, Eastside Inn. This new restaurant is part of the Malmaison hotel group and indeed will offer guests at their hotel in Charterhouse Square a nearby alternative option to the hotel’s own excellent dining room. It is, in fact, an extension of the Malmaison’s smaller Hotel du Vin concept and is the Group’s first standalone restaurant. A second is opening in Soho shortly and surely there will be more to come.


The new restaurant has primarily made use of the complete refurbishment put in by the Eastside Inn, but added its own touches on the decor front. It still boasts an open kitchen in the main restaurant area and can seat around 100 – some actually in a bar around the open kitchen. Despite being guests of the restaurant during their pre-opening trial run phase, our booking had been lost – but after a short bubbly-fuelled wait at one of the tables in the welcoming bar area, which boasts an open fire, we were seated in what was a very full restaurant. Service was thus a trifle haphazard, but reading reviews of the restaurant from more recent diners this seems to have been perhaps a teething problem. It was a trial run day after all. At that stage too we felt the menu was perhaps a little on the pricey side for what was aiming at being perhaps a slightly upmarket bistro, but looking at a recent menu and in hindsight, it looks like prices are pretty much standard for the area with most of the starters between £6 and £10 and main courses between £13 and £16.50, although adding a couple of sides at £3.50 each might bring the costs up a little. The excellent steaks though are rather higher in price. They are cooked on the restaurant’s Jasper Grill and are between £25 and £30. Another interesting special option is hot roasted shells – something which seems to have come out of the Rick Stein book. This comprises a veritable seafood platter, but hot from the Jasper Grill, taking in lobster, crayfish, razor clams, King scallops, oyster, crab claws and mussels. This is pricey though – offered in two sizes at £32 or £55 which presumably would be enough to share unless one was truly fanatical about shellfish- type seafood – or extremely hungry! By all accounts now the restaurant is fully open it is busy both lunchtimes and evenings so it does seem to be a filling a niche in the already well-served Clerkenwell eating scene. With nearby restaurants including the top rated St John and Club Gascon, along with the Hix Chop House, Portal and Smiths of


Smithfield it will need to maintain a high standard of food offering, service and ambience to thrive and prosper. The reviews I have seen on websites and blogs are virtually all highly complimentary and comments on the steaks cooked on the Jasper Grill are uniformly extremely positive. On the current menu it should be possible to get a three course meal for two with one of the less pricey bottles of wine for around £80 – maybe a little more if the half kilo bone-in sirloin steak (£30) is ordered – described by one blogger as gargantuan. Adding a pre-dinner cocktail, or a post dinner digestif, or both, could bring the cost up quite sharply though. The barman can provide a signature cocktail – a marmalade vodka martini - at £10, which is also around the standard price for other cocktails at the bar.


The wine list is long and there are some reasonable choices – about par for the area but there is also an interesting option with diners being able to purchase a ‘top-up card’ which allows for a variation of different wines by the glass from the bar, rather than say having to make do with a single bottle for different food elements which may not all be an appropriate match.


Where the restaurant does score though is on atmosphere. It has a lively French bistro feel but without being over frenchified (if there is such a word). It is lively and the open kitchen virtually in the centre, with its pewter coloured bar surround is a great focal point. It works as a place to come and have maybe a quick onglet steak frites (£12.95), cooked on the Jasper Grill, and a glass of wine at lunch time, or a more leisurely meal in the evening. The concept certainly does seem to be working.


There are some tables outside, but the pavement is not really wide enough to be too conducive for eating a meal, but might be fine for a drink and a burger! The Bistro du Vin is at 38-42 St. John


Street. Call 020 7490 9230 for bookings. Vino & Vino


The third brand new restaurant is an Italian offering in West Smithfield adjacent to the entrance to the Haberdashers Hall and just up the road from Carluccios and will certainly give the latter a run for its money for Italian food and wine lovers. The restaurant is called Vino & Vino and the owner describes it as being based on an Italian style enoteca. For those unfamiliar with the term an enoteca is an establishment which is both a venue for wine tasting and wine sales. In


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some, and Vino & Vino is an example of this, an enoteca will also serve small food (mostly small tastings of meats, cheeses and olives) to go with the wines, although in this case, some of the food offerings are rather more substantial. The basic concept is to be able to sample wines in a convivial atmosphere with a little food, rather than a full meal, to snack on alongside, but here there is the opportunity to expand on this a little. In addition to a soup of the day (£4.20),


Vino & Vino also serves a dish of the day (£8.95), a couple of hot dishes (lasagne or aubergine parmigiana, both at £8.25) and then a range of other platters, dishes and snacks – bruschettone, salads, sharing platters of cold meats and cheeses. Comment from Jennie Blouet who went along on Barbican Life’s behalf, the editor being away on business in New York: “W


nibbled on really top quality h olives and bread. Th


ey h e building used to h


Bistro du Vin interior – the open kitchen is inside the bar area on the left.


e drank some delicious prosecco and ams, ch


licence yet, so it’s difficult to spot from th road. Th


aven’t got a street e


eese, ouse


an art gallery – just a couple of doors up from Carluccio. Sadly, th


e interior is very modern but with Bistro du Vin


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