There are very few places in the City where I find myself wanting to linger a little longer, it’s just not the done thing in this part of town. People are more likely to be strutting from meeting to meeting, sweet-talking themselves into networks and closing deals, and the spaces are equally sharp and business-like. In a world where time is money, no one can afford to linger around too long… which is what makes Bar20 at Birleys even more of an anomaly. Sitting pretty in the shadow of the Walkie Talkie building, the location couldn’t be more City if it tried… but inside, it feels more like Mayfair.
Bar20 at Birleys is part of the Robin Birley portfolio which explains the private members club atmosphere; it’s plush and refined but still very relaxed. I get the feeling that the breakfast and lunch rush does have a certain City spirit and speediness to it, but in the evenings the bar descends to a pace which is perfect for those of us who have the luxury of time. We settled into a table by the window but I would have just as happily cosied into any of the corners under the eye-catching and conversation-evoking artwork (which is courtesy of Mr Birley’s private collection) or lounged on one of the large sofas in the centre of the room.
In the evenings they serve a succinct bar menu, not ideal if you’re after a hearty meal but perfect if you are in the mood for grazing and gossiping. As a certain someone pointed out, this would be just the spot for one of my ‘ladies who chit chat’ sessions; I could see my girlfriends and I taking over a few tables, attacking the varied cocktail list with gusto, and simply ordering the whole food menu… Another time perhaps, but with just the two of us, we had to be somewhat restrained. A Bar20 take on the classic Old Fashioned was perfect for a certain someone, while I sipped on a slightly more flamboyant and fruity Summer Storm.
I knew the cocktails would be good in a place like this, but I had flippantly set a low bar for the food simply because many bar menus are boring and the execution is poor. However, much like my favourite neighbourhood bar, they’ve put a bit more thought into their offerings and the kitchen pulls it off . A beef tataki could have done with a touch more sear and a dash less soy sauce, but what we did get was still rather sumptuous. The slices of tender beef fully loaded with an assortment of exotic mushrooms coated in the most potent sesame, soy and ginger sauce were a lot better than a bowl of gougons or other deep-fried dish.
With my fondness for fresh and raw dishes, I couldn’t resist ordering the salmon tartare alongside the beef. Happiness was digging my fork into the tightly packed mound of salmon dressed with gooseberries and chives, piling it onto a bit of toasted sourdough and popping the whole thing into my gob. Dishes like this and the tataki are not your typical bar snacks, they are a bit messy to share, but worth fighting over. Better for sharing are the Birley sliders which come in twos with a neat stack of chunky hand cut chips, however there’s no judgement if you decide to have a whole portion to yourself too… we did. Each mini burger was perfectly proportioned; the tidy stack of bun, rocket, tomato, patty and cheese demolished in a matter of bites. The patties are not done to the rare-levels of the gourmet operators, but still managed to be juicy which is good enough for me.
If none of these fancy dishes appeal to you, fear not… there are always the chips to resort to, and very good ones at that. These were chips cut from the right type of spud and cooked for the right length of time, rendering them delightfully golden and crisp on the outside, and scalding hot and fluffy on the inside. Perfect. I wasn’t actually intending on having dessert that night, or a third drink for that matter, but oh how easily I was swayed. We were simply told that the dessert of the day was an apricot tart and there was one on its way; no ifs or buts or a semblance of resistance seemed appropriate.
Maybe it was the slick Mayfair style of service, the kind where the food and drinks were delivered with such purpose and no request would have been too tricky, because then and there, it felt perfectly acceptable to overindulge. The tart, by the way, was heavenly and we were more than happy to have been too polite to refuse it! I don’t find myself in the City very often, but when I do, I know exactly where I’ll be headed… at the end of all that strutting, networking or deal closing, you’ll find me putting my feet up at Bar20, pretending I’m actually in Mayfair!
Do you have a favourite spot in the City?
Thanks for Bar20 at Birleys for providing us with a little slice of Mayfair in the City, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
Pin It For Later?