Less dough for better bread

Bread Street Kitchen
One New Change, St Paul's, EC4M 9AF, 020 7592 1616 breadstreetkitchen.com
FOOD ****

Cost per person without wine: £45

YOU’D do well to forget that Bread Street Kitchen is owned by Gordon Ramsay. The restraint of his high-end restaurants is nowhere to be seen in the latest addition to his portfolio, housed in the shiny shopping complex One New Change. It’s a number from ex-Boxwood Café head chef Stuart Gillies too, and has slipped so easily into the fabric of the City that you wonder how on earth it wasn’t there before. Because on the night I visit, it is full. More than full – throbbing. And there’s something of the catwalk about it – perhaps it’s the way that there are two entrances, so you can pop over from Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa in a skip and a jump, and prance through the main artery of the restaurant right through to the other side and down to the bar. Or perhaps it’s because, post Fashion Week success, Jonathan Saunders had his after party here when the paint was barely dry. Either way, this has firmly established itself as a favourite in the month that it has been open.

Bread Street Kitchen is not as formal as the Wolseley nor as trendy as Hawksmoor, but sits somewhere between the two. Sliding into the green leather banquettes, you can catch a glimpse of hidden corners of the upstairs dining room in the panelled mirrors that lean over the tables on every wall. The catwalk of black and white square tiles between banquettes is well used – those who strut down it are lit by the collection of vintage lamps between many an art deco pillar. That Shoreditch glow of industrial yellow from behind metal-mesh warehouse bannisters gives the art deco a cutting trendiness not seen much in the City.

There’s enough space between each table to ensure intimacy, but close enough to be part of the throng. Dinner à deux would be just as fun as dinner à six or sept.

The menu, split into three parts – raw bar, wood stone and hot stone – is a mix of dishes both British, and adopted British too; ceviche and rigatoni sit happily next to corned beef and bread and butter pudding. After a brief consultation with the waiter (friendly enough, but could be more well-versed in what’s on the menu), and Marco, who chooses two excellent carafes for us, the food comes quickly. A scallop starter is standard; the roar of bacon against the pallid, slightly overcooked scallops, disappointing. But, the pig’s head croquettes are crisp delights – a gorgeous blood red in the middle. It’s worth ordering from the raw bar as Bread Street home cures and marinates its meats and fish. The stone bass ceviche – translucent and milky white strips with rivulets of plum red, is topped with a pale avocado cream that gilds the clean bass on your tongue, and then comes the crunch of salt. This is the best of the sea.

The mains are even better. A ribeye steak – thick with a well-hung flavour – has a shiny slick from bone marrow cubes melting on top, and slices of grilled yellow-fin tuna are seared perfectly – light yet almost meaty. Sides are mainly good: brussel-tops like spring greens are vibrant and crunchy with bacon. The hand-cut chips are impressively uniform – beautifully crisp and then melting in the middle. It’s a pity such care isn’t taken with the carrots – sad, over-cuminned and almost grey.

To finish: a staunchly British bread and butter pud is a welcome hark-back to childhood. Crunchy ridges of caramelized bread that are smattered with raisins insulate the milk-soaked slices underneath. Chocolate tart is the Karl Lagerfeld of desserts – glossy, skinny and elegant, so smooth and shiny you could catch your own reflection. It’s accompanied by salt caramel ice cream with a crumble of cinder toffee on top – I could have eaten a bowl of that on its own.

At this point, I must mention that the state of the bathrooms do not match the quality of food. Soggy tissues line the marbled sink-tops and worse, I have an unacceptably unwelcome view walking past the gents due to the urinals’ position – something I’ve not experienced at a restaurant before and could be offensive, not to mention, shocking, to someone more sensitive than I.

However, moving on from that incident, should you wish to retire to the sofas and relax to the walking jazz bass-line then you can. We choose not to because we’re too full to contemplate any sort of digestif but I can say that Bread Street Kitchen is great fun at reasonable value. A fashionable and very welcome addition to the City.