Living in north London, I’m a bit of a stranger when it comes to rhyming off Farringdon’s hotspots. Having said that, I am by no means a stranger to the Bird of Smithfield. With two visits to this old Georgian townhouse tucked under my wing, I have been patiently waiting for the right time to return. With the announcement of new chef Tommy Boland out in the open, I knew my time to venture central had come.
The Bird of Smithfield is nestled in an old Georgian townhouse on Smithfield Street. Spanning across five floors, they can cater for almost anything; from cocktail masterclasses in their Birdcage basement bar to business meetings in their luxurious second floor private room. Whatever the occasion, more than likely, their versatile space can meet your wants and needs. However, we were here to experience their intimate 52-seater restaurant, not the latter. Making our way past the snug downstairs bar (that is plotted with cosy furnishings and some exposed brickwork) we travelled up stairs to be greeted with a simple and sophisticated space. The colour scheme here concentrates on neutral colours with a strong nod to various shades of cream and grey. Although these colours can sometimes lack a warmth, the magnificent mirrored ceiling and impressive selection of framed portraits adorning the walls, brought a sense of comfort and familiarity to our dining experience. A smattering of light mahogany tables sat across the floor, with one circular marble table, seating five, being the exception to the set; and seeing as it was a quiet night, we managed to nab one of the window seats that offer crisp views of Smithfield Street.
The Food and Drink
Keeping things simple and classic, my companion and I started off our evening with two Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned's at £10. Served in lowball glasses and with plenty of ice, this strong and straight to the point cocktail kept us going until dessert. But before I start to praise our third course, let me get through the first two.
Always a sucker for seafood, I ordered the the roasted isle of Orkney scallops, squash purée, Jerusalem artichoke gratin, sage, pickled walnut £16.50. From their size and fresh taste, you could tell straightaway that these scallops were hand-dived. Alongside the distinct quality of the white meat, the combination of flavours that played off each other made finishing this starter the saddest part of my day. Going vegetarian for the evening, my companion enjoyed the slow cooked Bantham duck egg, salsify, pumpkin, yellow chanterelles, Perigord truffle butter £9. Watching her cut into the egg and seeing it spread like lava across the plate, I could see it was cooked to perfection.
With ‘undecided’ as my middle name, I found it very hard to choose a main from Bird’s extensive and varied menu. After asking the audience (the staff) and going 50/50 (covering one half of the menu with my chubby hand), I was still very much torn in half. This left me with one more Chris Tarrant option: phone a friend. Dialling my father’s number (who just so happens to be a chef) he instantly recommended the roasted wild Cornish turbot, charred potatoes, winter cabbage, celeriac, truffle and hazelnut pesto £28. The texture was flakey and firm but it’s the rich flavour and well-paired sides that made this dish so special. Opting for another meat-free dish, my company dug into the baked butternut squash, braised onion, chanterelles, brown butter, chestnuts, roots £18. The chunks of butternut squash were golden brown and tender with the chanterelle offering a meaty texture.
The portions here are very generous, so be prepared to wait for 20 minutes before tackling the dessert menu. We ended up ordering the vanilla baked cheesecake, mango, lime £7 and the chocolate brownie sundae, Tonka bean, salted caramel, 100’s and 1000’s £8. I found the cheesecake a tad too sutble and lacked that creamy texture I always look for, but the chocolate brownie was spot on with random dollops of smooth salted caramel surprising you every few mouthfuls.
Arriving around 7.30pm, Bird of Smithfield was notably quiet. This was disappointing as there was no chirpy atmosphere you usually get with a Friday crowd. But having been here on a few other occasions throughout the year, I know we caught them on a slow day. For what it was slightly lacking in atmosphere, the staff made with up their attentiveness and friendly manner. They guided us through the menu with ease and made small talk in all the right places.
My decision to be tactical when planning my third trip to the Bird of Smithfield paid off spectacularly well. Tommy Boland’s new menu is packed with quality dishes; everything from the small accompaniments to the key ingredients are well-thought out and deliver on flavour. So, if you want to impress someone, whether it be business or pleasure, there's no need to phone a friend, ask the audience or go 50/50; this central London location has it all.