Gratifying Game at B&H Buildings in Clerkenwell
Bourne and Hollingsworth, better known for their upscale cocktail bars in West London, have decided to take a more laidback and traditional approach to dining at their Clerkenwell restaurant, whilst maintaining a signature nod to their background. Located on a nondescript road between Farringdon and Angel, the B&H Buildings restaurant occupies a squat, conservatively decorated Victorian building that is unannounced save for a large Union Jack flag and a bold sign stating the venue’s intentions: “Brasserie. Bar. Café.”
Inside, the bar area is a deeply trendy affair: a wide, broodily-lit, low-ceilinged space with a long, porcelain-topped bar that is reminiscent of a turn of the century dentist’s surgery. Not even the bathrooms escape this attempt to entice an upwardly mobile, culturally savvy set of Londoners, where a large, free-standing bath constitutes a sink.
We move through to a verdantly decorated greenhouse conservatory, where hanging plants become the backdrop to our four-course, game-themed banquet, prepared by veteran chef Adam Gray as a promotion for the soon to be launched B&H Cooking School. Upon arrival, Gray comes to greet the large table of guests, talking us through his background, the cookery school and the food he will be preparing for us. As chefs go, (they’re rarely renowned for their oration) this one is interesting and passionate about his work, not hesitating to explain where he sources his game birds from. With his brief complete, Gray retreats to the kitchen and our first course follows.
To start, the friendly and knowledgeable staff bring a wonderfully succulent Roasted Partridge, Apple and Celeriac Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts. The partridge is superbly cooked: seared well, with a flavoursome char, but remaining pink and tender throughout. It is excellently complemented by a salad that is nearly a slaw, and backed by the earthy crunch of hazelnut.
With a nod to Bourne and Hollingworth’s background as cocktail purveyors, each dish is paired with a specially matched and prepared drink. Our partridge is served alongside a Gardener Jasmine Royal. A take on the classic English garden, it matches gin’s herby aromatics with lemon and green tea, a great balance with the earthier flavours of the partridge.
Next comes a petite Wild Duck Pie, Buttered Kohlrabi and Wild Duck Gravy. Taking a more minimalist turn than the previous dish, the small but satisfyingly meaty pie comes atop kohlrabi that serves to prevent the brilliantly rich filling from becoming too heavy. The pastry, often a letdown, doesn’t disappoint, being moist and well glazed.
Served alongside this is a Hokkaido: a powerful blend of Japanese whiskey, burnt orange, bitters, port and lapsang suchong syrup. For those who like strong flavours, particularly whiskey, this blend would work brilliantly, although it certainly isn’t for the fainthearted.
Our main dish of the evening, Roast Pheasant, Smoked Bacon Hash, Seasonal Wild Mushrooms and Salsify, is unfortunately a little disappointing. On arrival, the mushrooms are cold and the pheasant a little tough. Ultimately, the fabulously smoky, savoury bacon hash could have stood alone and the dish would have benefited for it.
Our pheasant is served with a Carla Chiaro Malbec, with a deep woodsmoke flavour and strong top notes of blackberry and plum that suit the chilly November weather perfectly, providing a strong complementary flavour to the savoury hash.
To round out the evening we are served a well presented but almost disconcertingly large portion of Iced Sticky Date Pudding Mousse with Toffee Sauce, which succeeds in being exceptionally sweet, nearly to the exclusion of all else. However, the rich and bitter chocolate biscuit base prevent the date and toffee from overwhelming.
Without doubt, however, the Iced Somerset Cider, served alongside our gargantuan dessert, is the star of the course. Created by pressing frozen apples, the cider is fabulously tart and refreshingly fruity.
Despite a hiccup in quality during what should have been a highlight of the evening, Adam Gray’s team at the B&H Buildings delivers a solid and well thought-out dining experience that, with a little more refinement, will stand them in good stead with other English-inspired eateries across the capital.
Gratifying Game was a one-off event at Bourne & Hollingsworth on 19th November 2015. To book a table at the B&H Buildings, 42 Northampton Rd London EC1R 0HU, call 020 3174 1156 or enquire here.