Hidden restaurant gem off Bishopsgate with live jazz

Boisdale Bishopsgate must be doing something right.  If you didn’t know it was there it would be tough to find – and it certainly won’t get any passing trade – yet it is long established in its location down a narrow dead-end alley (Swedeland Court) off Bishopsgate and behind Dirty Dick’s pub, almost opposite Liverpool Street Station.  Many years ago I ate there when it was Mr Bill Bentley’s seafood restaurant, but it has now been a Boisdale for nigh on 20 years.  It is obviously a popular venue for local business lunches, and offers live jazz most evenings.

Part of the restaurant interior

Boisdale styles itself as a Scottish restaurant chain and has four properties in London, all providing live jazz on several nights a week.  As if to emphasise its Scottishness it has a huge range of Scotch whiskies available, perhaps the biggest range of any restaurant company.  The restaurants are in Belgravia, Canary Wharf, Mayfair and our (relatively) local one off Bishopsgate.  The Bishopsgate establishment comprises a street level champagne and oyster bar and a classy fine dining basement restaurant, with regular events and live jazz most evenings.

The evening we went (a Tuesday) the street level bar area was busy, with drinkers spilling out into the narrow alley, while the basement restaurant was perhaps less than half full with the live entertainment provided by jazz pianist/singer the Moonis Macdonald who performs there a couple of nights most weeks at present.  Despite being in the basement, the restaurant is an attractive space, nicely decorated  with well separated tables and banquette style booths.  With the jazz pianist at play, and probably without, there is also an attractive ambience.

There are various menu options, including a lunchtime take-away one aimed primarily at local office workers – see the restaurant’s website (www.boisdale.co.uk/bishopsgate)  for details of the options on offer.  We stuck to the a la carte menu which had a great choice of dishes.  The Scottish elements in the menu included the option of haggis as a starter, a main course and/or a savoury, Scottish smoked salmon and Scottish beef in the form of steaks or hamburgers.  Boisdale restaurants also pride themselves on serving game and there will obviously be Scottish options here when in season and as available.  The a la carte menu also incorporates suggestions for pairing wines or spirit accompaniments for several of the dishes,

The haggis starter portion

My dining companion and I both went for Scottish options for starters.  I chose haggis and she opted for the trio of Scottish smoked salmon – the Menage au trois – both excellent choices.  The small ball of roast Dumfriesshire blackface haggis was served with the traditional bashed neeps and mash and was extremely tasty if you like haggis – which I do.  A good choice and also the lowest priced of the main starter options at £8.75

Similarly the trio of smoked salmon was also a great choice as a starter with a generous helping of the Scottish delicacy.  It comprised slices of the three types of smoked salmon on offer individually – Dunkeld classic oak smoked salmon, John Ross kiln cured smoked salmon and Boisdale’s Bowmore whisky-cured smoked salmon priced at £18.75 for the three.

The smoked salmon ‘Menage au trois’

Other starter options include the soup of the day (market price), Caesar salad (£9), steamed mussels (£12), crispy calamari (£9.50) and Boisdale’s special London burrata (£13).  Oysters are also available in season and priced depending on types available,  When we were there there were varieties at £2.50 each or £3 each.  The menu also offers what it describes as British tapas in small plates varying in price from £4 to £6.75.

For main courses Boisdale specialises in Scottish steaks in a variety of cuts ranging from a 7 ounce fillet at £29.50, 12 oz rib eye at £33, a 12 oz bone in sirloin at £39.75, a 10 oz fillet on the bone – which it describes as probably the best steak in the world – at £45 and a 20 oz chateaubriand for 2 persons at £75.  Other mains are priced from £14-£25 with daily game dishes as available and a special tagliatelle with 4 grams of fresh white Italian Alba truffles sliced at the table, currently at £29.50, but normally double that price.

Fillet steak with peppercorn sauce

There is also a range of burgers available – beef, vegetarian and chicken from £10.75 to £21.50.  So not basically a low-cost restaurant, but with some lower cost options available for those on a budget.

We both chose the small fillet steak as being adequate – one medium rare and one medium.  I chose to have the peppercorn sauce with mine and my companion bearnaise sauce.  The two steaks were cooked just right and were tender and full of flavour – sufficient to tempt me to try one of the other cuts next time, although some of the other dishes on the menu looked very promising as well.  Perhaps next time I visit I will have a different starter and the haggis as a main course.

crumble – partly eaten already!

There is a separate dessert menu with all the options looking tempting and priced from £4.95 to £8.  Suggested dessert wines for each option are also included on the menu, as is a fuller listing of available dessert wines, teas and coffees.  A cheese trolley is available with a selection of five cheeses at £12 and ten cheeses at £20  one would assume that ten cheeses would be more than enough for two to share.

We chose a couple of the desserts and when they arrived they looked so appetising we forgot to take photographs until after we had started on them,  However the slightly late images still give an excellent idea of our indulgences.  I chose the mixed summer fruit and granola crumble with citrus cream (£7.50) while my companion chose the salted chocolate tart with blueberry mascarpone (£8).  Both proved to be excellent choices and much enjoyed.  I will point out that the granola in the crumble was very crunchy, which could be a problem for someone with false teeth, but the overall result was for an extremely satisfying, and attractive dessert.

The salted chocolate tart also met with strong approval and was deemed delicious indeed the exact comment was  “full of flavour”.

salted chocolate tart

Service and attentiveness was excellent, but then the restaurant was not very full.

Boisdale has a huge and comprehensive wine list.  In the interests of economy we washed our meal down with a bottle of the lowest cost house red – a Spanish tempranillo/syrah blend (£24.50) which was more than acceptable.  Still wine prices range from the low £20s up to £795 for the top fine wine (a Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2009) – plenty of choice for every pocket!  There’s a huge range of champagnes available too from just under £60 to £285.  Perhaps the saving grace is many of the wines are available by the glass meaning one can sample some of the top wines without having to take out an overdraft!  However such a wine list emphasises the high-end status of the restaurant.

Boisdale Bishopgate is at Swedeland Court, 202 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4NR.  Tel: 020 7283 1763.  Email: info@boisdale-city.co.uk.  It is open from noon to 11 pm weekdays but closed at weekends.  The website, where one can view the various menu options and details of the evening entertainment is at https://www.boisdale.co.uk/bishopsgate.

Lawrence Williams