Saturday, 14 November 2009

Eastside Inn review at London Farrindon - bistro, open concept kitchen with efficient and warm service

I had heard good reviews about Eastside Inn for some time so I was very pleased to find myself attending a dinner party there.

Eastside Inn - a corporate contemporary setting

Eastside Inn is located in Farringdon. We thought it would be easy to locate but in the gloom of a rainy autumn evening it took us some time to locate. Eastside Inn has a contemporary setting though I must say I found it a tad too corporate. The set-up consists of a bistro, set around a central open-concept kitchen and a small restaurant. The only menu option available for the restaurant is a set menu of 3 main courses and canapés at £70 per person. Being credit crunched we opted for the bistro where one could order dishes from an ala carte menu.

Being seated at the bistro was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. In between courses, you could get entertainment simply by observing the chefs at work. If you are in a small party there is also the option of sitting at the counter right next to the chef, just like being seated at the sushi restaurant in a Japanese restaurant. At one point, there was a small commotion while the chef patron Bjorn van der Horst appeared to have a mini outburst over the speed of the service, though whatever argument the chefs seemed to be resolved rather quickly.

Service was efficient. We were quite a large party but all our dishes for each course arrived at around the same time. The waitress (I think she is Diana) was warm and quick to respond to our requests.

The starters went well for all of us. I had baby squid for my starter. It was served sizzling hot in an earthenware pot with smoked paprika and lime vinaigrette. I liked it and so did my dinner mates who ordered the same starter. The rest of our party ordered the onion soup and partridge and were happy with their choices. In particular, the guy who had the onion soup declared it one of the best onion soups he had in between mouthfuls of the creamy brown concoction.

Prawns roasted with chilli and garlic - sizzling but that's about it

For my main course, I opted for all cremat, a dish of prawns roasted with chilli and garlic. I found the dish decent but nothing to shout about. My dinner mates seem more enthusiastic about their main courses. A few ordered duck breast while the others had dover sole and steamed mussels. I was particularly taken with the duck breast which looks deliciously pink in a peppercorn sauce and wished I had ordered that instead.

Duck breast in peppercorn sauce done just right with a little pink at the centre

I was pretty full at this point but decided to go for desert nevertheless given the accolades received by the pastry chef. I had a crème brulee which turned out to be really nice and creamy with a hint of spice. The rest of my party had apple pie and araguani chocolate (tonka bean ice cream). I was particularly intrigued by the latter - what is tonka bean and how does it taste like? My friends told me it tasted faintly like vanilla but were hard put to say any further other than that it was very nice indeed. I was intrigued and it is now on my to-try list. I was pleasantly surprised when Bjorn came around and said hi to us at the end of our meal. Always nice to have that small personal touch to complete your dining experience.

The Eastside Inn crew flanking Chef Patron Bjorn van der Horst (with red tie)

Now.... what I need is an opportunity to return to Eastside Inn.. and this time I will have the araguani chocolate!

Address: 38-42 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4AY
Tel: 0207 490 9230
Nearest Tube station: Farringdon

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £40 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
Suitable for: a small dinner party
Eastside Inn on Urbanspoon

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