Piano Works in Farringdon – one for the bucket list

The Piano Works is on Farringdon Road a short walk up from the tube station and on the left hand side in a listed Victorian basement.  It is perhaps as much a night club as a conventional restaurant but is definitely a fun venue and around a 15 minute walk from the Barbican.

Before starting to read this review and just in case you don’t get to the end, I urge you to visit at least once.  The place is enjoyably different in that the music takes centre stage.  As you go downstairs from the entrance, you enter into an abyss of a basement with lots of types of seating and zones to get comfy.  The winning difference is the stage in the middle of the room with two giant pianos and all the accoutrements for the other musicians who join in later in the evenings.

The format is that the audience write down requests on their napkins, with an optional tip, and the waitresses take the requests to the musicians who simply play them.  There wasn’t anything on the night I was there that they couldn’t cope with quite magnificently.  I can see technology up there (I think I spotted an iPad) which they seem to use for the lyrics, but apart from that, they are very impressive improvisers!

For anyone in the mood, there is a dance floor and it isn’t an arrangement that is awkward if you are the only ones on there; the venue is informal and I could see it releasing the inner disco queens when the right songs were up.  So, in brief, this place is definitely one for the bucket list.

The Piano Works can host up to 400 guests so, as I mentioned earlier, there are several zones in the basement, some with a clearer line of sight to the stage and some tucked away.  We ate at a tall bar table with high stools, which wasn’t the most conventional for an evening meal, but it was comfortable and had a fantastic view of the action.  There are also booths nicely isolated for smaller groups and larger areas with their own bar for functions (or a bit more privacy if there isn’t a function on).

There is a full bar, cocktail and wine list although the we didn’t have any wine for this review, you can find their wine list online – www.pianoworks.bar .

With all the restaurants that I have reviewed, I have to say that this is definitely the least posh and the menu reflects this, but I don’t want to do the place down; the menu is small but provides a good choice and is very well priced for an informal and fun evening out.  The pricing is also simple: 2 courses for £25, 3 courses for £30 (which includes a glass of pink sparkling wine), with the clever addition of ‘bottomless’ offers on drinks, which will be great for the avid get-togethers. The price drops by £5 for the pre-theatre crowd for the 5pm seating, which is even better.

As the pair of pianists tinkled away, we started with a couple of cocktails: I had a refreshing Vanilla Mojito (St. Aubin vanilla rum £8.25) and my partner had a light and fruity citrus scented Mandarin and Lychee Cosmopolitan (Mandarin Absolut vodka, kwai feh lychee liqueur, cranberry juice and fresh lime £9.25).

Tap water for the table was no problem and non-tetchy, and we choose our meals.

I’m vaguely attempting a lower-carb diet so I went for the well-seasoned, moist and melt-in-the-mouth Beef Carpaccio.

BEEF CARPACCIO with rocket

My partner chose the Bruschetta with goat’s cheese, a great mix of textures and a pleasing combination of flavours.

BRUSCHETTA With cherry tomatoes, goats’ cheese, lemon, garlic and balsamic glaze

STARTERS

SOUP Of the day

BRUSCHETTA With cherry tomatoes, goats’ cheese, lemon, garlic and balsamic glaze

POMEGRANATE RADISH and chicory truffle salad with goats cheese and pine nuts

BEEF CARPACCIO with rocket

For the main course, my partner went for the protein-heavy option of Rib Eye steak.  There is a selection of steaks (one with a supplement) and she went for the Rib Eye which was perfectly moist and hit the spot.  Steak, I can steal, so I didn’t hesitate in supporting the choice!

RIB EYE Hereford 28 day dry aged steak marinated in a rosemary and thyme reduction

I’m starved of fish at home since my hubby hates the smell, so my treat was the Wild Seabass and it was as good as ever I tasted elsewhere: the fishy, buttery flakes topped off by a slightly crisped skin.

ROASTED SEABASS Wild seabass with balsamic glaze and herb oil served with new potatoes and fine beans

At about this point in the evening, the pianists were joined by a guitarist, a drummer & a saxophonist; the music on demand format continued, the lights dimmed slightly and the atmosphere transitioned just a little bit more towards night club.  Quite exciting!

MAINS

STEAKS

The Steaks and meat dishes are all served with a choice of fries or sweet potato fries and an optional choice of sauce: Shiitake Mushroom – Peppercorn – Tarragon – Spicy BBQ

TOMAHAWK A 500 gram hereford rib steak dry aged for 28 days – £12 supplement

RIB EYE Hereford 28 day dry aged steak marinated in a rosemary and thyme reduction

LAMB Leg of lamb steak grilled and flavoured witn cumin, paprika and a talatouri sauce

CHICKEN Grilled free range chicken breast rubbed witn lime and ierk spices

PORK Baby back ribs glazed with a J.D. and star anise barbeque sauce

ROASTED SEABASS Wild seabass with balsamic glaze and herb oil served with new potatoes and fine beans

VEGETARIAN Stuffed butternut squash with couscous and tahini

I think you’d probably agree that 2 courses was enough but for the purposes of the review, we struggled on to the dessert for you!

We chose the combination of naughty and virtuous: I went for the Sorbet and my partner enjoyed the Cheesecake.

The Sorbet was refreshingly zingy as you’d expect and was enormous and enough for two.  I even ended up leaving some, which is a first time for me.

Brazilian Lime sorbet

The Cheesecake was creamy and delicious with fruity veins running through the insides with a very complimentary and compatable crunch from the sliced almond topping.  It wasn’t the best Cheesecake that I have tasted, but it was still very good and certainly a decent quality and portion.

DESSERTS

Cheesecake

Chocolate

Tiramisu

The Piano Works has been around for a while and a colleague of mine raves about it; apparently it gets very busy and night-clubby towards the weekend on Fridays and Saturdays when it is so popular it charges an entrance fee of £10 at the door.  Another thing to bear in mind is their meal sittings which they like to limit to roughly 2 hours, but after or before the meal, you can still stay there and party.

As well as the full menu available at dinner time, a range of bar snacks is available and on Saturdays a brunch menu is served from noon.

This place is definitely one to try; unlike anything else I’ve every been to, it claims to be the only non-stop live music venue in London.

OPENING TIMES

Monday – Friday 5pm-1am

Saturdays – 12pm-1am

Sunday – Closed

As they get busy on Friday and Saturday, to avoid standing in line try to arrive before 19.30 or after 22.30.

Strictly over 18’s policy

113-117 Farringdon Road, Corner of Ray Street, Farringdon, London EC1R 3BX

Email: hello@pianoworks.bar; Tel: 0207 278 1966; Web: pianoworks.bar Twitter: @ThePianoWorks; Instagram: @ThePianoWorks; www.facebook.com/thepianoworks

Helen Hudson