Restaurant review: Gin Joint, Barbican, EC2

The decor has a hint of conference suite about it

The decor has a hint of conference suite about it - Credit: Archant

The Barbican is a curious and strangely beguiling place. Built on ruined slums bombed to smithereens during the blitz, it finally opened in 1982 after decades of deliberation and debate.

Meat is the order of the day at the Gin Joint

Meat is the order of the day at the Gin Joint - Credit: Archant

It was designed to be a utopian vision of the future; a complete city with its own gardens, theatre, cinema, and so on.

But, unlike many failed “streets in the sky” projects from the past, The Barbican retains a subtle beauty within its brutalist walls – a fact largely down to the consistently high standard of its boundary-defying arts programme.

The latest addition to the venue’s roster of attractions is the Gin Joint, a new restaurant from Searcy’s, the team behind eateries at the top of the gherkin and at St Pancras Station.

In common with most of the Barbican’s interior, the decor feels a touch dated and has more than a hint of conference suite about it, but the view from the dining room is stunning; overlooking the complex’s lake, St Giles Cripplegate church and it even has the dome of St Paul’s in the distance.

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With around 40 gins on offer, the place certainly earns its moniker, but with a beady eye on the meaty dishes we opted for a syrah from their reasonable wine list.

The menu is dominated by offerings from the bertha grill, a kind of indoor barbecue lending a smoky aroma and caramelising sugars to whatever’s cooked on it.

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Anticipating a hefty main we went for some light starters; the smoked salmon was good quality, while the king prawn cocktail featured plump, juicy crustaceans with a tangy sauce, complimented by a thoroughly intriguing and delicate avacodo sorbet.


Entirely less subtle were the steaks. The fillet was a dream, served with a decadent slice of seared fois gras on top. Incredibly tender with a hint of sweetness, it’s possible to believe the bertha is more than just a hyberbole.

Fattier and more flavoursome, the rib-eye was equally joyous, and our collected sauces and sides; bearniaise, bone marrow butter, blue cheese, cauliflower cheese, mashed potato and so on, were all very good.

Eschewing dessert in favour of a digestif, we ruminated on the meal and decided that, like the Barbican itself, beneath a slightly bleak exterior lies genuine quality.

The Gin Joint isn’t adventurous as the art it sits beside, but what it does it does rather well.

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