Review: Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and the Jugged Hare

In our latest series of restaurant reviews we have been covering those attached to local hotels and you will find also up to date opinions on Angler restaurant in the South Place Hotel and the Brasserie Malmaison in the Malmaison in Charterhouse Square.  Now we come to the closest of all to the Barbican, the two very popular restaurants attached to the 5* Montcalm City hotel on Chiswell street.

We last dined at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms just after the restaurant opened in 2011 and our impressions were indeed very favourable as to the service, ambience and, most of all, the food quality.  It was interesting to return, this time for lunch, to see whether this high quality has all been maintained or perhaps even improved on.  It is perhaps unfair to compare a luncheon service with dinner – the ambience tends to be a little different as is the clientele, but even so Chiswell Street Dining Rooms continues to provide excellent food in very pleasant surroundings.

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Chiswell Street Dining Rooms

On the day we visited the restaurant was just about full, which is a recommendation it itself as it is far from a cheap dining option.  Naturally, for this time of day, the clientele looked to be mostly business oriented and given the Barbican area is pretty much corporate lawyer central these days one would guess many may have been from the legal community.

We were quickly seated and promptly offered a drink as the menu and wine list were delivered.  Service was friendly and efficient without being overpowering as it should be.  The menu was extremely interesting, but there was also a choice of specials, all of which appealed to me so I went with those while my dining companion chose to go with the main menu – neither of us were disappointed with anything we were served.  The food was truly excellent as befits an establishment charging towards the upper end of the scale with most starters coming in at £7.50 and above and mains at the +£29 mark, although there were less costly options available – but also more costly ones too.

But one has to say the meal was a treat.  My starter of panfried pigeon breast, with a soft quail’s egg on a soft butter bean cassoulet was delightful – as long as you like rare meat (which I do).  I followed that with roast venison loin (also very rare) on a white onion puree with haggis courgettes on a bed of beautifully cooked cabbage and broccoli, again a superb mixture of tastes and textures.

My colleague chose salmon tartar, soft boiled quail’s eggs, caviar and a most interesting iced horseradish scoop (effectively horseradish flavoured ice cream!) to start.  She followed this with monkfish tail on a crab risotto with clam and shallot cream.  She could not sing its praises too highly!

And then we came to dessert.  Both having eaten more than normal for a lunch we settled on sharing the day’s dessert special – lemon meringue pie with a blood orange sorbet.  It was also exceptionally good and again my companion described it as one of the best desserts she has ever had – praise indeed from someone who eats out a lot as part of her work running a restaurant-oriented charity – StreetSmart..

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The remarkable Lemon meringue pie and blood orange sorbet dessert.  Photo by Jennie Blouet

Presentation of the food too was in keeping with a 5* hotel (The Montcalm City) restaurant.

The restaurant is open only from Monday to Friday.  Kitchen hours as follows: Lunch: 11.45am-3.30pm,  Afternoon Tea: 3.30pm-6pm,  Pre-theatre: 5.30pm-6.30pm (latest orders at 6.30pm),  Dinner: 5.45pm-11pm,  Post-theatre: 10pm-10.45pm (latest orders at 10.45pm).   Bar Food served from  11.45am-11pm

Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, 56 Chiswell St  City of London, EC1Y 4SA Phone: 020 7614 0177.  Web: www.chiswellstreetdining.com

The Jugged Hare

The second restaurant attached to the Montcalm may just be one of the area’s major success stories – at least in terms of attracting both drinkers and eaters.  On almost any evening the bar appears to be packed, often with people spilling out onto the pavement outside, while the restaurant also seems to be fully occupied too.  We haven’t covered this fully in our latest review of the restaurants attached to hotels here as we reviewed it only 9 months ago in the Summer 2012 issue of Barbican life and apart from the menu not much looks to have changed, although it obviously appeals strongly to a regular clientele, which is what a good restaurant is all about.  There is a concentration on game and cooking is probably more of the better English variety than fancy Continental gastronomy, which appeals.

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The Jugged Hare’s dining area

At the time of the earlier review we made the following comment in our feature on it entitled ‘More than just a gastropub’ : This was indeed an extremely enjoyable meal and definitely ETM Group is doing something right with the Jugged Hare.  The fact that the bar always seems packed is perhaps a function of the small size of the bar area compared with reasonable table spacing in the restaurant section.  There have been a number of pretty favourable comments on the food on the barbicantalk bulletin board, as well as a very good review from Giles Coren in The Times.  From the Barbican residents’ point of view it also serves good Sunday lunches (according to some Barbican residents who have tried this) – and being in the Montcalm City hotel serves breakfast too.  A very welcome addition to the growing restaurant population around the Barbican.

Sunday lunches receive particular praise which makes it a nice close-at-hand venue for those around at weekends and who fancy a meal out.

A quick survey of reviews on various dining out websites and blogs is indeed favourable – nearly all give it at least four stars.  It’s a formula which obviously works and a great – and not too formal, addition to the eating options close to the Barbican.  Indeed it is so close to some parts of the Barbican it is nearer at hand than those eateries within the Barbican complex itself.

Opening hours are Monday – Wednesday from 7am – 11pm, Thursday – Saturday from 7am – midnight and on Sunday from 7am – 10.30pm.  Pre and post theatre menus are available too.

The Jugged Hare, 49 Chiswell St  London EC1Y 4SA, Tel: 020 7614 0134.  Website: www.thejuggedhare.com