CAST your mind back to summer, or more specifically those three or four evenings it was actually warm enough to stand outside, and Farringdon-ites might recall flocking to Bird of Smithfield’s fifth-storey rooftop to work their way through a summer spritz cocktail menu overlooking the meat market.
And here we are again, just weeks later, on the first properly cold night of the season and feeling quite at home (and markedly less winded) in the Bird’s cosy first-floor restaurant.
The Georgian townhouse is home to no fewer than two bars, a private dining room, restaurant and terrace; one of those all-purpose, all-weather drinking and dining destinations that can accommodate a few rounds on the boss’ credit card as comfortably as three courses over a quiet bottle of Burgundy.
There is plenty of the former going on upon entry through the ground-level bar, but we are here for the latter from new-ish chef Tommy Boland.
It has been just under 12 months since Tommy took over from the Bird’s head chef (and namesake, no less) Alan Bird, who flew the coup to focus on new projects after launching the venue in 2013.
During that time he has sharpened the Bird’s menu with his own French flourishes – a consommé here, a cassoulet there – all the while maintaining its original focus on highlighting the best of seasonal British cuisine.
Starters swing from mackerel to veal tartare, ultimately favouring fans of seafood. However, it’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t be a fan of fat Isle of Orkney scallops that taste as though they’ve been hand-dived not long before we sat down at the table.
They appear on a bed of white beans and fungi that doesn’t add much to these plump juicy morsels, but doesn’t detract from them either.
The lamb sweetbread, however, is a dish where everything works in perfect harmony with soft goat’s cheese and roasted root vegetables offsetting the rich caramelised sweetbread – a standout. Mains are also a fairly seafood-heavy affair, with John Dory, sea bream and cod and, on that particular chilly Tuesday, no beef thanks to a neighbouring group of carnivores.
Based on the plates of tender sirloin swimming in bone marrow that sailed by our table, we could see why.
We opted instead for a vegetarian cassoulet, which manages to pack a surprising amount of flavour into what is essentially borlotti beans, spinach and fungi.
The guinea fowl is moist and tender, however there’s a sense it could have done with a slightly more creative treatment than its bed of roast vegetables, though perhaps that’s just our sirloin salivation talking. Any green eyed monsters are put to bed by a cracking bottle of Domaine Martinolles pinot noir and some excellent puddings, of which the lemon curd with tangy orange sorbet is a ‘must-make-room-for’.
The monsters are further soothed by the knowledge that within the Bird there remains that ground-floor bar that will put off our journey out into the cold for at least another hour. Or until next summer.