I once backpacked around Europe for 9 months, in between finishing university in Australia and joining the grey suited rat race. It took me to all sorts of weird and wonderful places, and taught me much about the world and about myself. Like that I will travel 3 days out of my way to have bolognese in Bologna. Or that I will not sleep if there is an unsmiling dwarf with a glass eye manning the hotel reception at night. Most of all, I learned how much I love my own bed and a decent shower. And that girls get fatter when travelling and boys get skinnier. (At the time I blamed the olive oil, but there are enough photos of me tucking into Pavarotti sized bowls of pasta to suggest otherwise.)
Walking into the Barbican Lounge brought all these memories flooding back. Because the room looks almost exactly like a German youth hostel I stayed in once. It has some cool bits - like the funky round light fittings (which I believe is a "light installation" from Beirut designers PS Lab) and retro Scandinavian chairs. But the harsh linoleum floors and canteen like tables keep conjuring up images in my mind of scary, stony faced backpackers chain smoking in the corridors of a YHA in Berlin. I was going to have to remind myself not to stuff breakfast rolls up my t-shirt on the way out.
It is, however, in keeping with the architectural design of the Barbican Centre (sometimes described as a "concrete ziggurat") - there's not much you can do about aluminium framed windows. However, it kind of grows on you - a bit like the building itself - and there's a fabulous big balcony with seating outside which will be tremendous for al fresco eating and drinking in summer.
I was invited down to try the Barbican Lounge right about the time TPG and I were planning a mid week visit to the cinema (The Black Swan - weird but I liked it). The cinema at the Barbican is excellent - it's big with lots of leg room and the row in front of you is low down enough that it really wouldn't compromise your view if Marge Simpson sat in front of you and put a hat on top of her beehive.
The Barbican Lounge, it turns out, is a really good place to share a bottle of wine and a few small plates before you hit the movies or the theatre or whatever other cultural enlightenment you're there for. TPG and I reminisced about Australian wineries over a bottle of The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne (McLaren Vale, £26), while sharing 5 small plates and desserts.
|Braised oxtail with pappardelle|
The rarebit cheese fondue (£6) was excellent, with thick chunks of toasted bread to be dunked into the smooth, gloriously cheesy mix. The rich and succulent five hour braised oxtail with hand cut pappardelle (£5) was my favourite dish, while potato dumplings with roasted garlic aioli and smoked paprika (£3), sweet cinnamon infused lamb meatballs with spiced squash (£5) and plump and crispy devilled whitebait with aioli (£3) were also tasty and great for sharing (even if the cinnamon in the meatballs was just a tad heavy handed). I'm only sorry they were out of the sausage rolls with cauliflower pickle (£4), which would have been my first choice.
We finished with the fantastic Victoria plum and almond tart with vanilla bean ice-cream (£5) - a perfect balance of tart and sweet, and seriously addictive. A lovely, rich chocolate fondue (£5) came with an assortment of marshmallows, brownie chunks, lemon cake, fresh pear and strawberries for dipping. Yummo.
Ok, it's not a romantic date place (at least until summer heats up the balcony), nor is it likely to blow your culinary senses. But it's really tasty, simple, easy going food, with a decent wine list and it's great value. If you work nearby, or are doing something artsy at the Barbican Centre, you'll find something to tempt you over a nice bottle of wine at the Barbican Lounge.
Barbican Lounge, 1st floor Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS, (Tel: 020 7382 6180)
Greedy Diva was a guest of the Barbican Lounge.