Silk and Grain in Cornhill
33 Cornhill has undergone something of a transformation. Nestled amongst high-end fashion retailers and giants of the financial world, it’s a location that’s demands excellence. The last occupant was The Door, a dark oyster bar and grill whose marked testosterone and formality was deeply off-putting.
So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that this beautiful building had been relaunched as Silk and Grain. Gone are the moody interiors, the white tablecloths and the high bar, replaced instead with an airy, relaxed space that’s perfect for an after work cocktail. Speaking of which, the bar menu has received an equally successful makeover. Like most of what’s been done here, it’s subtle. Offering barrel-aged cocktails means that there’s no need for the wacky concoctions offered up for many new launches in the City these days. The old favourites are all there, but with a decided twist. With prices starting from £7.50, they’re competitively priced too.
Barrel-ageing may seem like a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a wonderful process that can transform even the most generic of drinks when performed correctly. Think of it as ageing spirits like whiskey or hanging beef: a carefully controlled chemical reaction that can add, subtract or even transform flavours. We start with barrel-aged Hanky Pankys, something that causes a little concern at our table. Fernet Branca is a controversial ingredient, and not to everyone’s taste, including ours. Here, mellowed by its time in the barrel, it’s surprisingly delicious and agreeable.
To complement it, we try three of the more intriguing bar snacks: Crispy Pigs Ears, Clonakilty Black Pudding “scotched” Quail’s Eggs and Beer-Braised Bunny “sausage” Rolls. The thin strands of pigs ear are a crunchy treat that’s ideal for nibbling and the quail eggs are full of flavour without being too rich – always a tricky thing to achieve with black pudding. The standout dish is the rabbit, whose light, flaky pastry hides a core of meltingly tender meat. It tastes intensely of grassy fields and spring sunshine, whilst again managing to avoid being overly rich.
With our first drinks polished off and snacks wolfed down, we turn to the starter: Isle of Man Scallops with English Pea Puree and Smoked Trealy Farm Bacon. That trinity of flavours is not a new idea but it’s executed well, the smokiness of the bacon and the freshness of the peas being apparent but not overpowering. The scallops themselves are well-cooked, the smooth flesh infused with just a hint of the sea. It’s a good dish, but it lacks a little oomph.
The same cannot be said for the main: a simple rib-eye steak, ordered rare. It arrived seared on the outside and ruby red in the middle. So far so good. The taste and texture was exquisite: a smoky, caramalised crust hid a core of unbelievably tender beef. As steaks go, it could go toe to toe with one from Hawksmoor, a rare feat indeed! A mushroom and merlot sauce added an extra dimension of richness but honestly the rib-eye was more than capable of standing on its own merits. Our sides were a smattering of potatoes and assorted veg, the highlight of which were the crispy fries enriched with a little truffled parmesan. All of this was washed down with a Bloody Moira, a twist on a Bloody Mary that uses leather-aged Dalwhinnie. The flavour was robust and powerful, the perfect accompaniment for steak.
Dessert comes in the form of a gooey chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream. We expect an overload of dense carbohydrate and sugar, but instead we’re served a rich and velvety slice of chocolate heaven. Making something simultaneously indulgent and light is not easy, but Silk and Grain make it look effortless. Everything here is simple in the very best way, clean and delightful flavours that are served without fuss or pretension. That was eminently apparent as we ended our night with a sip of metal Martini, which had been rested in a steel flask. Metallic flavours are usually considered undesirable, but here it adds a tiny touch of minerality that gives an extra dimension to this classic cocktail. By this point, we expected nothing less.
Simple, elegant and remarkably subtle, Silk and Grain is nothing short of a triumph.
To book a table at Silk and Grain, 33 Cornhill, London, EC3V 3ND, call 020 7929 1378 or visit here.