Restaurant Review: Little Bay Restaurant, EC1
Natasha Hotson tries bistro dining of all flavours at an old favourite in Farringdon
REWIND ten years and Little Bay was flying the flag for cheap bistro food outside Soho.
Bonhomie, intimacy, slick service and posh nosh at knock-down prices meant this small chain of restaurants was invariably likened to a gem by restaurant reviewers.
When I first visited the Farringdon and Kilburn branches it was hard to believe that something so good could cost so little.
A decade on and we are a food obsessed nation, with spoilt for choice Londoners the foodiest of all.
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Pubs that once served curly sandwiches and surly expressions between noon and 2pm casually dole out lobster and “hand cut chips” and the menus of every self-respecting caf�, bar or restaurant feature an array of tapas style grazing options spanning the gamut of global cuisines.
Add the thriving restaurant scene of Exmouth Market into the mix and the Farringdon branch - once a culinary beacon on a barren main road - has taken a hit in a time of recession and food obsession.
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The “pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth” promotion of 2009 has been usurped by a promotional half price menu where starters and desserts are all priced at �1.98 and mains at an extravagant �4.48 - a much needed boost to restaurant goers who are increasingly faced with more hidden costs than a Ryan Air flight.
Surely, the whole idea of a side order is that it is an extra not an essential, for goodness sake.
I visited one wet Wednesday and my day was instantly brightened up by the shamelessly kitsch d�cor. Scarlet walls bedecked with ornate gold statues and a huge installation of a Greek god brazenly dominated the shy little square of a room, reminiscent of modest semis in Purley where outsize stone eagles adorn gate posts and wagon wheels feature on front lawns.
Whilst the interior is tiny, the menu is massive, ambitiously encompassing retro French, Modern European and a bit of the Middle East. But a few well-executed bistro classics would clobber the competition.
I started with a special: slices of marinated duck breast accompanied by an 80s looking blob of pink mayonnaise and my friend plumped for the parson pastry – a filo pastry filled with chicken, sour cream and mushrooms.
We opted for main courses at a purse-friendly �8.95 in the form of rib eye steak accompanied by home cut chips and braised knuckle of lamb with a selection of vegetables.
The steak was a decent cut and the lamb was falling off the bone. And best of all despite the anorexic prices there was no skimping on portion sizes.
When puddings are �1.98 skipping dessert is not an option. Profiteroles in cream with sliced bananas and hot chocolate sauce did the job and the cheapest cheese plate in London rounded off the evening
Ten years on, Little Bay is still reeling me in with rock bottom prices and some well-executed dishes. With a menu revamp it will be a real gem!