I hold my hands up, I’m a sucker for anywhere Instagram-worthy. After many mentions of Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings in the office and in general chit chat, I took me, my best friend and my cracked iPhone 6s on a journey toward Islington to check out what is rumoured to be London’s prettiest venue.
The Venue and Atmosphere
As the saying goes, never put all of your eggs in one basket. This little slice of advice seems to have rubbed off on Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings in a big way, with their team cleverly dressing and splitting their space making it one of the most versatile in north London. They have a cafe, a cocktail bar, a garden room, a greenhouse area and a tongue-in-cheek party den.
Arriving on a Saturday afternoon, we were over the moon to discover that we had managed to secure an intimate table in their most sought-after space - the greenhouse. Stylish and chic, the room is tucked away in a corner and plays host to a mixed collection of cane garden chairs and cutesy flower-printed armchairs. In tune with the greenhouse theme, potted plants, hanging greenery and miniature palm trees occupied all possible corners of the intimate spot - including the ceiling. Whether in the shadow of candle light or soaking up the sun’s rays during the day, dining in this specific area is an absolute must. With only two double doors and a hollow fireplace separating it, the garden room next door is just as breath-taking. Whitewashed walls, a smattering of marble tables and cosy seating give a feeling of dining in a secluded and sexy countryside home.
While we didn’t get a feel for the cafe as we resided in the greenhouse for most of the night (can you blame us?), I will let you in on a B&H secret - the party den. On my journey to the downstairs bathrooms, I stumbled across a living room-like space with a bar blasting out tunes. Sneaking in for a moment to bop about by myself, I felt like I’d discovered an alternative party dimension. Enquiring about this hidden gem, our waiter informed us that ‘Below and Hidden’ was Bourne and Hollingsworth's ‘dirty little secret’. Open until late and serving heady drinks, it's the icing on the cake to this one-of-a-kind venue, if you can find it.
The Food and Drinks
Never one to turn down champagne, we clinked glasses of Gardet Brut Premier Cru NV (£10) to toast to our night ahead. Floral and clean, our flutes lasted us right through to our mains. Before I jump that far ahead, let me talk about the starters. For me, the Cornish crab tart with red chicory salad and grapefruit dressing (£10) stood out from the list. The crab was wonderfully fresh and excellently presented, but forgetting my unwanted dislike for grapefruit, I found the salad a tad too bitter. However, my company ordered the pressed ham hock with grilled baby gem and peppered pineapple dressing (£9.50), and I couldn’t fault it. Served with thin, crispy slices of bread, the ham was meaty with a mild salty aftertaste.
For dinner, we ordered a bottle of the Bolfan Estate Riesling (£38). The wine was dry and carried distinct honey notes that were paired well with both of our mains. Sticking with fish, I ordered the pan-fried sea bream with roasted salsify and mussel chowder (£18) with my friend going for the roasted corn fed chicken with smoked bacon hash and buttered sprout tops (£18). My sea bream came with a silver crispy skin in a pool of creamy sauce and scattered with meaty mussels, creating a comforting dish, full of depth. My companion’s chicken was just as satisfying; every forkful of meat was juicy and tender, and the herby gravy accompanying it - wonderfully rich.
Due to it being my friend’s birthday, we sprinted towards the dessert offering with both mouths and arms wide open. Loving almost all options printed on B&H’s dainty menu, we came to a compromise to share the dark chocolate and salted caramel tart (£7.50) and the caramelised apple and nutmeg crumble with vanilla custard (£7). Although the tart’s consistency was extremely heavy, the salted caramel and dark chocolate combo left us scrabbling for the last forkful. It may not have been as indulgent but the crumble's thick and lightly seasoned chunks of apple was a happy ending to our three-course meal.
Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings dished up three wonderful courses in a stunning setting; as for the rumours of it being one of the prettiest venues in London? 100% true - I can personally vouch for them. One single picture of me amongst their foliage reeled in my yearly average of likes and comments. Forget the pudding, folks; the proof is clearly in the Instagram likes.