You don't have to be a genius to understand why Farringdon's Barsmith is always brimming with people. A venue where the ideas of 'keeping things simple' and 'focussing on the small details' work hand in hand, the team offer handcrafted cocktails alongside fresh pizzas, all topped with fine ingredients and biting sauces. It might look like just another boozer for the city's pink-shirt, grey-trouser-wearing crowds, but scratch the surface a bit and you'll discover Barsmith's real charm.
Barsmith sits on St John Street, just a brief stroll from Farringdon tube station. Finding itself surrounded by fine-dining wine bars and sleek cocktail bars, the venue, in all honesty, struggles to stand out, with only the big double doors offering a streetside glimpse of the bar's industrial decor. This rustic face is hard to miss once you step inside. The wooden floor, grey and brown colour scale, rusted metal features and low hanging lights make it quite obvious. And that's not even mentioning the venue's exposed brick walls and Edison bulbs, a double act that you can find in most bars in zone 1 aiming for that dishevelled look. Almost like a ray of light creeping from underneath a door, the actual bar stands out thanks to the colourful zig zag pattern along its body and the rows of bottles that line its shelves. Completing the colouring-outside-the-lines look, each wooden table top is lit by a single candle that flickers as the night goes on. It definitely has character.
The Food & Drink
As soon as we sat down, the menu was the only thing on our minds. The irresistible smell of fresh dough was floating around our table anyway, courtesy of the 20-incher that the table next to us were chomping through. But first, we dove into a few fresh cocktails (all priced at £8.50) and small plates to get the ball rolling. The Fappening was the obvious choice for a whisky fan like me, composed of toffee apple bourbon infused with lime, apple juice and caramelised brown sugar. Though the cocktail was smooth, it was slightly too sweet for my liking, with the caramelised sugar taking almost all the bourbon's bite away. Thankfully, the Breakfast Margarita saved the day, perfectly balancing orange-infused tequila with pink grapefruit, a hint of lime, marmalade and a homemade triple sec. The drink came served in a jam jar with a gingham lid and wonderfully balanced the sweetness of the orange with the sharp tequila and grapefruit flavours. All the best parts of each component ingredient came flooding through with every sip, with an oh-so-familiar tequila aftertaste lingering on your tongue.
Our small plates quickly followed the first round of cocktails. While the rosemary chips (£4) and the calamari (£7) were both moreish and quickly polished off, it was the crispy arancini (£4.50) that stole the show. The clash of textures between the crunchy exterior and smooth, creamy inside was only made better by the large mushroom chunks and truffle oil mayonnaise that accompanied the deep fried risotto balls; rich and bursting straight off your tongue, this was a dish that went straight to my heart in more ways than one.
Having caught our breath during a short break, we were pleased to see our piping hot pizzas come out of the kitchen. In an attempt to sample the polar ends of the menu, we ordered the Portobello white pizza (£11.50) and the Wild One (£13), topped with slices of wild boar. The white pizza had plenty of vigours; thinly slice portobello mushrooms were carefully folded with dolcelatte cheese and the pizza really shone thanks to a sprinkling of pine nuts and a generous drizzle of truffle oil. Be warned however, this is an incredibly rich pizza and is best eaten when it's piping hot. You'll do well to finish it all without feeling as if you're about to be hit by a wave of gout. By contrast, the Wild One was difficult to fault. The heavy boar salami was countered by a sweet tomato sauce and the crisp layer of rocket salad that sat on top of the pizza. Now I'll admit, I've never eaten boar before, so my judgment might not be the best. But if the meat is always as tender as the slices on that pizza, it might soon become my favourite meat. Two huge thumbs up from me.
The mantra at Barsmith is pretty simple; smooth cocktails and homemade pizzas served in a carefree setting. First and foremost, it's a bar. And on that side of the coin, the friendly staff succeed in serving refreshing concoctions that twirl and twist a selection of fruits and spirits together. Backed up by the kitchen staff, the bar offers complex pizzas that are made using only the finest ingredients, toppings and cheese. Make no mistake, it isn't a fine dining restaurant. Instead, Barsmith is more of a chill-out space that promises to cater for whatever mood you might find yourself in.