Located on the 10th floor of the Montcalm Royal London House Hotel and overlooking Finsbury Square, Aviary is a brand spanking new rooftop bar and restaurant fronting bespoke cocktails, cool interiors, an indulgent food menu and one hell of an alfresco terrace.
The Venue and Ambience
Though only opening in December 2016, this new City hangout has already been heralded as one of London’s best. Ascend to their top floor expansive space, and you’ll soon see why. Decorated with bright colourful outdoor furniture and hanging heater lamps, Aviary’s rooftop terrace isn’t just unashamedly stylish and welcoming (even in the winter), the vantage point atop the hotel also ensures gorgeous skyline views of the rest of the city. I visited on a particularly frosty January evening, and there were just a handful of brave souls enjoying their drinks outside, but come the warmer months, this place is bound to be in exceptionally high demand.
The brains behind Aviary are the ETM group, and if you’re aware of their other outposts (The Jugged Hare, One Canada Square or Greenwood to name a few), you’ll know that bold interior design isn't something they shy away from. Though obviously not as impressive as the outdoor space, the inside of Aviary is still in line with the group’s signature finesse, with plenty of copper, splatterings of design-shop-worthy furniture, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a separate space for both the restaurant and the bar.
Ambience-wise - and as you’d expect from its Moorgate location - the crowd is made up of city slickers and media types, in what is quite a lively atmosphere. It’s definitely not the place to take an elderly relative hard of hearing – there’s a loud-ish buzz throughout - but the restaurant and bar’s close proximity ensure a fun, non-stuffy air, ideal for all types of night out, spanning romantic dinners to boozy after-work sessions.
The Food and Drink
It’s worth noting that ETM are traditionally known for their blinding food offering, and though Aviary’s opening might indicate a move towards a more drink-led approach, the food here will unequivocally not disappoint. You’ll find high-end but hearty options on the a la carte menu, primed for a gluttonous night of gorging. To start, we opted for the beautifully-presented yellow fin tuna sashimi (£12) and the crispy duck, rice noodles, beans sprouts and duck egg (£9). Though I originally had my eye on the raw seafood platter before opting for the sashimi, I wasn’t disappointed when my dainty plate of food arrived; hitting just the right notes on texture and taste, the freshness of the ingredients shone through above all else, and the simplistic level of flavours really set a tone for the rest of the meal. The crispy duck while not quite as aesthetically beautiful as the fish dish, also fronted in the flavour department, with the oozing duck egg yolk definitely stealing the show.
As a general rule for myself and many, I only tend to order massive hunks of meat in quality restaurants I know I can trust, and with that it wasn’t a difficult decision plumping for the coal oven cooked shorthorn chateaubriand 500g (for two - £58). The meat comes alone, so on the side we went for some thrice cooked chips and creamed spinach (£3.50 each). It’s easy to throw around the term ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ when it comes to a good steak, but my god did it. Perfectly pink and a generous 500g portion enough for two, the meat was moist, well-cooked and spot on. We went for a green sauce on the side, but to be honest it didn’t need it – the meat was enough on its own. Desserts were initially off the cards given my enthusiasm in the first two courses, but, I’m a consummate professional. And professionals don’t pass the opportunity to try out a chocolate and honeycombe Sunday (£6). Smooth and sweet with chunks of chocolate fudge, it was a good way to go out in a blaze of stuffed, roll-your-way-home glory.
As is a necessity for any dual food and drinks offering, the cocktails, spirits and wines at Aviary are just as independently strong as the cuisine. Presented to a standard I’d only really expect from high-end mixology haunts; the cocktails boast complex flavours with touches of theatre. Special shout-out goes to the High Heel Society (Sipsmith gin, Joseph Perrier champagne, cucumber, honey - £15) and the Florasion (Santa Teresa Claro rum, Eau de Vigne, lime, jasmine, hone - £15); they’re not cheap, but if you like your drinks to have a little panache, they’re definitely worth the price.
It’d be easy to park Aviary firmly in the ‘amazing rooftop’ category – of which it definitely belongs – but the truth is it offers a lot more than that. The food is great, the drinks are unique and the buzz is a far cry from your standard characterless city hangout – this place has the whole package.