Good food comes in small packages

Daisy Jestico tries tapas with a difference at The Barbican’s new kitchen venture

Barbican Lounge

Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y

020 7382 6180

A REVAMP at one of The Barbican’s many dining areas sees this modern and airy restaurant spring up with a winning formula for pre-theatre dining.

With no lack of restaurants vying for custom within the venue, the Barbican Lounge – formally the Balcony Bistro situated on the first level and overlooking the City – successfully corners the market for sophisticated food in unfussy surrounds.

The bar restaurant avoids falling into the category of a glorified cafeteria with its modern touches of Scandinavian styling – epitomised in the retro round-back chairs or the impossible-to-miss bright gold light fittings that occupy almost the entire length of the ceiling.

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Its simple, yet distinctive, arrangement is typical of much of The Barbican’s interiors. Hardly lacking in space, the building is pretty much an architectural shell dotted with just a few sparse furnishings.

In such a setting – and with a Dine and Dash menu that comes with the promise that customers can order, eat and pay the bill within 50 minutes of sitting down – you would imagine that the food would be as effortlessly simple as its d�cor.

Yet the tapas menu surpasses itself. Shunning Spanish cuisine, the chef has opted for an expansive, but not overwhelming, selection of modern European dishes, helpfully split into meat, fish and vegetarian dishes – presumably to speed up the ordering process.

Dishes are small but perfectly presented and the attention to detail is impressive, given the restaurant’s punters are unlikely to linger over their meal.

The exceptional poached pear and walnut salad stood out for its subtle hint of cinnamon and brilliantly purple hue, while the light and crispy devilled whitebait was satisfyingly plump and flavoursome.

And proving that homemade scotch eggs are a cut above any stodgy shop-bought version, the restaurant served up a treat with its thinly coated quail’s eggs unevenly centred in the pork meat.

Other equally delicious dishes included the Severn and Wye smoked salmon with a honey truffle dressing and Laverstoke farm mozzarella with a cracked pepper balsamic drizzle.

And for dessert the chocolate fondue is pure bliss. I hesitate to call it the best item on the menu when the effort that goes in to melting a bowl of chocolate and cutting up some fruit must be nothing compared to the dedication that goes into everything else, but it felt like a luxury and a feast you may not want to share.

The brilliance of a meal like this is the chance to satisfy every craving and eat as much – or as little – as you want.

But it is sometimes difficult to see how the restaurant would fit in to the competitive dining market. I find it hard to imagine that anyone going to a show would have the time, even in 50 minutes, to savour its delights, yet it would be worth a visit for the food alone.

The restaurant is also keen to boast that their outdoor terrace, which sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly loses its allure in the depths of winter, has been beautifully decked out by Chelsea Flower Show winner Kate Gould. It is a shame that her efforts will go unappreciated for much of the year but is sure to become a popular drinking spot for pre-theatre drinks come the summer. – DAISY JESTICO

Mains: from �3 to 36

Wines: from �15 a bottle

Children welcome: Yes

Disabled access: Yes