You have to admit Chiswell Street is an odd place to have a full service restaurant. The street, which serves as a conduit between Finsbury Square and Barbican, also hosts EAT, Currys, and a number of dull looking office blocks.
It so happened that we were in the area on a Saturday noon. Frankly, after an entire week of egg mayonnaise sandwich at Pret, I would very much prefer not to lunch at EAT. Thankfully, Chiswell Street Dining Rooms rode to the rescue.
Well, barely really. The staff were in the midst of preparing the main dining area for lunch so we settled down at the bar area instead. We hardly saw the staff after we were shown to our table. There was absolutely no one in the bar area save us. Which was rather curious as the main entrance to the restaurant is through the bar. True enough, there were at least two couples who walked in, took a glance around and left when there was no one to greet them.
"Fish and shellfish handselected from Billingsgate Market" - stated prominently on the menu, always perceived to be a hallmark of excellence in London. With Steve Hatt just round the corner of our place, we hardly have fish outside these days. Instead, I opted for a burger; I needed something heartier to cheer me up with the chill building up outside.
The Dexter beef burger (£16) came with applewood smoked cheddar, bacon and tomato chutney with a serving of French fries on a small Staub casserole. Though it packed a mouthful, it didn't match up to what I had at Princess of Shoreditch. Topped with barely toasted sesame covered buns, the burger was served cold. Perhaps the kitchen was trying to serve it together with the pie but one thing was for sure, the burger was left far too long on the serving table.
The Herefordshire snail and smoked bacon pie (£9.50), on the other hand, arrived pipping hot. With bits of snail and bacon sloshing in Guinness and mushroom cream sauce, it was something that I can get used to. I was a bit disappointed that the pie was only half filled - it would be brilliant if there was some potato chunks or even slices of bread to soak up the gravy.
After being corrected by a French pal that tart tartin should be pronounced as "tar tar", I am absolutely fascinated with the dessert. "Let's go for the pear tart tartin," I declared almost pompously after glancing through the dessert menu, taking care to pronounce it right. Wife wasn't impressed. Neither was the staff who finally appeared after a long while, probably to see whether we have left without settling the bill.
From my limited knowledge of the dessert, pear tart tartin is normally presented in two main ways - either sliced and laid out like an upturned tart or chopped right in the middle. Chiswell Street Dining Rooms serves the latter. Its pear tart tartin (£6.50) came accompanied by a scoop of blue cheese ice-cream and candied walnuts (three of them to be precise). The blue cheese ice-cream was a first for me. Almost like Marmite, it takes some getting used to. But the walnut and sticky sugar honey mixture more than made up for it.
Chiswell Street Dining Rooms' service, when we eventually got it, was politely lacklustre. Not only the staff forgot our request for tapwater, our mocha was served without the Rococo chocolate stick, which dawned to us moments after the mocha was served. The waiter was nowhere to be found and we had to go into the main dining area to hunt for him.
That said, you might be pleased to know that Chiswell Street Dining Rooms also serves breakfast, which include items like porridge oats (£5.50) and eggs benedict (£7.50). Also, I noticed a small dining room on the first floor, which is perfect if you hosting a private dinner. From what I gather, you would get a dedicated staff you dine in the room. Surely that must be an incentive.
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