Restaurant Review: Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, EC1

Daisy Jestico savours traditional British cuisine at a restaurant in the heart of the City

Squeezing through the busy bar on a Wednesday evening I was initially fooled into thinking the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms is all about the after-work drinking crowd.

Hardly surprising when you consider it is right in the heart of the City and a first port of call for the suited-and-booted elite to schmooze with clients over a tipple or two.

But there would have to be some mighty fine beers on tap to compete with the delectable menu we’re handed when we sit down in the restaurant.

It reads like a culinary wish-list of everything you would want from old-fashioned British food. It’s what every gastro pub strives to be and not a soggy fish and chip dish in sight.

It’s packed with imagination while still sticking to its local roots.

Snail and smoked bacon pie and a pig’s head and eel salad are among the more inspired options, while native Scottish lobster, Middlewhite pork loin and a 35 day aged rib-eye steak would still be enough to whip any discerning carnivore into a frenzy.

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A glance at our surroundings confirms the restaurant’s patriotic stance - wooden floors, beefy leather sofas and towering vases of flowers, not to mention the British racing green d�cor outside. Even the restaurant’s name is enough to conjure up London fine dining.

Not one to shy away from a challenge my husband opted for the aforementioned crispy pig’s head, ham hock and Lincolnshire smoked eel salad for starters.

Instead of the severed carcass I was fearing, came a neat dish of cubed pork and a terrine of ham – a hearty dish for an opening course but one packed with incredible flavour, although the eel was lost among such strong competition.

My starter of diver-caught Isle of Man king scallops, with English samphire and lemon thyme was divine. The satin smooth flesh was delightfully offset by the crisp coating and zesty sauce and it was cooked to perfection.

Incidentally, I watched as this dish was repeatedly dished out to other diners – a popular dish and it’s not hard to see why.

After all a restaurant that gives as much attention to detail over its fish dishes as it evidently does over its meat is a winner in my eyes.

But it was the main course that was the biggest surprise. My dish of roast fillet of wild Atlantic stone bass with summer vegetables and a tomato and cucumber consomm� could conceivably have been an afterthought when put next to its meaty menu rivals.

Yet it was a light and playful dish with every vegetable carrying as much punch as the wonderfully crisp-skinned fish. I would easily come again for this dish alone.

While I was in foodie heaven, my husband was equally enamoured with the West Devon lamb, describing it as superb and cooked “as rare as they dare”.

The accompanying lemon courgettes and potato gratin were also impressive with razor thin slices of potato a testament again to the chef’s eye for detail.

Wines do not come cheap and for the moneyed bankers among you the Australian Penfolds Grange will set you back a dizzying �230 a bottle, although you are bound to find something to whet the palette from such an extensive list.

Our dessert of white chocolate cheesecake – if you can make it that far – was a perfect end to what was one of the best meals we’ve had in some time.

A trek into the City and the strain on your wallet would be well worth the effort.