"Beautiful food, faultless service and a truly stunning interior."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
It had been a long hard week – covering Bristol and Southampton as well as the City and including a 24 hour stretch without sleep (working not playing) so I really needed a relaxing evening out with good food, friendly service and an uplifting environment in the City on a cold and rainy Friday night.
I had toyed with the idea of hitting the Michelin starred restaurant of take-no-prisoners chef Herbert Berger but settled for the less formal brasserie in the fabulous former banking hall (If you are a rich banker looking for a restaurant business, you couldn’t have found a better investment).
And One Lombard did not disappoint. Nestling against Mansion House and so close to Bank tube station that you don’t need to get your umbrella out of your bag we met for a glass of champagne at the lovely circular bar under the signature glass dome ceiling. But we were swayed by the cocktail menu. The bar staff were super professional but friendly with a good sense of humour and not overly familiar. I gave the place the ultimate mojito test (pass) and my colleague was delighted to find a Negroni on the menu (a traditional cocktail, I am told, consisting of Campari and gin as well as some other yummy things). The twinkling blue lights on the ceiling – I assume for the festive season – added an extra lift to the start of the evening. And the huge flower arrangements dotted around the amazing hall (big and spacious without feeling cold and clinical) used red gladioli and amaryllis to cheerful but tasteful effect.
Well, if the City is in crisis it hadn’t reached the relaxed calm of I Lombard Street. There was a pianist playing proper background music (you could only hear it if you really tried) and the clientele were mainly upmarket groups of City workers. I couldn’t spot an empty table but it just didn’t feel crowded. There were one or two couples – who had probably travelled in – but my money would be that most people either worked or lived local. Interestingly, as the evening wore, on more small groups arrived – maybe they had been drinking at one of the location’s many nearby watering holes. I couldn’t help feeling that this would be a fab place for a smart Christmas do – if your employer hasn’t used the recession as a reason to pull the plug on a little bit of much needed relaxation.
A heavy drinking session wasn’t on the cards so we selected a couple of glasses of wine – my New Zealand sauvignon blanc (£7.60 a glass) was perfect (in fact, I had to order another) and my friend seemed to enjoy his French Pinot Noir.
While we waited for our starters to arrive, we were presented with a tiny cup of warm curried mushroom soup with a hint of fennel. Yum! My friend’s starter of game pie (£8.50) was a winner. A sensible portion size, properly gamey and well seasoned and served with a beetroot chutney. I had opted for the crab, avocado and prawn salad with bloody mary sorbet (an amazing chilled tomato explosion on your tongue) - £9.75. It looked stunning – a perfect striped tower surrounded by lines of brown crab couli and roast red pepper purree. It was nice, if just a tad too chilled for my jaded palate and the prawns were plump. We cleaned our plates.
Next up another inter-course treat. This time seared fois gras with a comfit of endive and potato. Although I am not usually a big fois gras fan – and wouldn’t order it myself - this was food heaven. Words can’t describe the taste and texture.
My main course arrived. I had selected the “Chef recommends” grilled swordfish with saffron and chorizo risotto (£19.50). The perfect criss-crossing on my fish suggested an incredible attention to detail. Swordfish is a challenging fish to cook perfectly and mine was good but I have to say that the bed of chorizo risotto was simply awesome. Incredible. My friend’s confit of crispy lamb belly (£18.75) was an inspiration – amazingly light and just the right amount of crispiness perked up with a mint jus and supported by light mash and reliable roasted vegetables. I think I won on the main courses.
To cleanse (surprise?) the palate we were then presented with apple, strawberry and sauternes granito. This was a bit too close to pink slush puppy for me – but then I can be a bit of a peasant when it comes to really haute cuisine.
I wasn’t sure that I was up for desert but when crème brulee appears on the menu my resistance disappears faster than a banker’s bonus. And I can honestly say that this was the largest dish of the vanilla spiced rude food I had ever seen. Perfectly crisp sugar topping protecting light creamy smoothness. My friend (a former chef and real food critic) gave it 11 out of 10. He talked while I ate.
The Gaggia produced suitably strong and rich espressos and the plate of petit fours held two particular wonders – a black treacle brandy snap and a pineapple and chilli jelly. What a sensational sign off from such a lovely meal.
So overall it was a really good choice. Beautiful food, faultless service and a truly stunning interior. And for the quality of the food, reasonable value for money. My only, really minor and picky point was the rather forlorn and incongruous freesias on the table. My colleague thought this was an odd thing to whinge about – but when everything else was just so amazing, I was disappointed that this small detail wasn’t quite right. But I will certainly return to the brasserie and may work myself up to the restaurant sometime – although that will probably be during daylight hours and backed up with an expense account.
KimT reviewed 1 Lombard Street on Mon 01 Dec 2008