Tim Firmager reviews the relaxed neighbourhood restaurant for a midweek dinner, Bowling Bird, located close to London’s Smithfields market.
Located close to the historic Smithfields market, Bowling Bird is tucked away on Cloth Fair, just off the main thoroughfare of people. The address therefore suggests an ideal location for either a quiet lunch or dinner within the City but without the bustle. At Vada Magazine, we popped in for midweek, post-work dinner.
Entering Bowling Bird feels somewhat like walking directly into someone’s living room, partly because you’re immediately stood at a table, but also from the features like the fireplace and art-deco style cabinet, both used to display some of the wine and spirits available. John, the front of house manager, appeared from a back room after we walked in, and we were also introduced to Joe, who runs the kitchen, before we ordered.
As appetisers, we chose the mixed olives (£3) and Crostini with roasted red peppers and white anchovies (£4.90), and a glass of Gavi di Gavi Lugarara, Piedmont 2016 (£9.50).
We chose the Blue corn tostada with crab, corn, coriander purée and hibiscus (£5.50) and the Tuscan sausage and spinach tart (£6) to start. The blue corn tostada are delicately put together and therefore slightly messy to eat – one snap of tostada can send corn flying. There was a good balance of flavours, and this dish does show off the organic produce that Bowling Bird use. The tuscan sausage tart was self-evidently homemade, a hotchpotch of flavours, such as the somewhat confusing addition of sweetcorn.
Main courses were unusual in terms of presentation. On the one hand, ordering the daily special turned out to be a joy, monkfish served in a tomato based sauce, creatively presentation on a puce plate of contrasting colour. The fillet of Surrey Farm beed (250g) (£26) was just that, albeit well-cooked was rather alone on the plate. It is a good job therefore that we ordered sides of chargrilled broccoli (with french beans, hazelnuts and a sherry vinaigrette) (£5.50) and roast cauliflower with coriander seeds and sumac (£4.50) so my colleague got more than just the meat.
Of course there was dessert involved, which was the highlight of our visit to Bowling Bird. We chose the Creme Brûlé, and caramelised apples with lavender cream and meringue. Both generous portions (perhaps having been influenced by Eureka O’hara’s recent ‘proportionizing’). The lavender cream had a gentle hint of floral notes, rather than being overpowering, and we enjoyed the playful contrasting textures.
The setting and interior does give the impression of dining in someone’s converted living room rather than in a modern restaurant, although this ‘quaint’ style may be appealing to some. Perhaps this is an indication that Bowling Bird hasn’t quite worked out its identity yet.
The menu showcases organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, but the presentation of dishes left us feeling like the menu could do with a polish; however the quality of food shows through. For organic and sustainably-focussed diners working in the city, Bowling Bird is an accessible restaurant to try.
Although we only had a couple of glasses of wine, there is an extensive wine menu of over 250 bottles (some on display) including from some more unusual regions (such as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic), for those wanting to pair grape and plate.
Bowling Bird is located at 44 Cloth Fair, London, EC1A 7JQ.
For more information, visit bowlingbird.com.