The Fortnum and Mason Bar and Restaurant in the Royal Exchange feels so very special at night. The covered courtyard is incredibly vast and detailed. Sitting in low cushioned seats within it feels a little odd. But still brilliant. You feel quite small in this massive space. This is what makes it such a special dining destination. Having dinner amongst such grandeur is a rarity.
Yet it so overwhelmingly overlooked as a place to visit – for either shopping or eating and drinking. Too many City dwelling folk wander past the historic building without venturing inside – even if this is foolish, it does make the Royal Exchange an oasis of calm.
Even though it is located smack bang in the middle of the Square Mile, right on Bank Junction, it is bizarrely still a secret little London space. And, now that Fortnum and Mason is running a special Chinese New Year menu for the next week or so, it is the perfect time to venture within.
Either sit up at the stunning silver bar for a few cocktails or sink into the banquettes upholstered in that classic Fortnum and Mason teal colour (more specifically referred to as Eau de Nil) and get around their Lunar New Year set menu.
It starts with a welcome cocktail made from sloe gin, vermouth and some sparkling tea. The wintery bev is fairly sweet but still balanced with enough ginger and lemon to get away with it. Take a good moment to indulge in the surroundings.
Then come the shitake mushrooms with crispy tofu surrounded in a soy broth. For anyone with slight sniffles, this will help clear you right up. The broth is divine. Lifting the mushroomy umami flavours up a notch.
The fairly large portion of grilled salmon comes topped with lemongrass, ginger and chilli – sitting in a similar soy-based broth as the mushrooms. Again, this felt like it was doing a world of good for our immune system, all the while tasting superb.
Peking duck dumplings follow, just as you start to feel the need to loosen the belt buckles. These comes in a master stock which is similar to the previous broths. Not the same. But in the same sphere. It was delicious but we could have done with something a little different. It is nice to have the pallet challenged and get a variety of flavours and textures.
Chinese doughnuts came with more ginger – this time blended into a crème fraiche – which was the ideal way to finish things off. Especially as you got three doughnuts each. Now that’s a win.
Finish it all off with some famous F&M tea alongside a few cheeky chocolate truffles. How civilised are we? Even if you’re not one for celebrating the Lunar New Year, this is one damn good introduction to the Fortnum and Mason dinner offerings at the Royal Exchange.
Fortnum and Mason’s Lunar New Year set menu runs until 7 February and costs £75 per person. This includes half a bottle of wine per person. Alternatively, you can get the smaller menu which doesn’t include wine for £45 per person.