Sunday 6 February 2011

Barbican Lounge, Moorgate

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.

Chocolate fondue

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.

Chocolate fondue

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.


  1. That line about stuffing bread rolls down your shirt had me falling out of my chair. Definitely captures the hostel/Eurail experience, I'd say. : )

    I haven't been to the Barbican in ages, despite living so close by. The whole compound scares me at night. Still, I'll keep this one in mind.

  2. I've long looked for somewhere better than their serve-yourself canteen, this sounds like a great place for a light bite. I particularly like the look of the fondue and the oxtail. Nice to see something slightly different.

  3. So great to hear- we're headlong into Oscarsfest at the moment (we try and see everything that's nominated- ridiculous we know) and are keener than ever for decent places to grab a bite before or after a screening. Thank you!

  4. An American in London - Aah, the memories! Something I do love about the Barbican centre is watching all the people getting ready to go in to a concert or the theatre etc - I get caught up in their excitement!

    Grubworm - Exactly, do try.

    Tori - Oscarfest: love it! Have you seen The King's Speech? So good!

  5. I love this place. I used to go to the Barbican frequently when my husband worked across the street and we would grab a quick bite here before I headed off to see a show. Thanks for reminding me its there.

  6. Mmm - that pappardelle sure does sound good. Most of the dishes being at £5 seems very reasonable to me.

  7. Aww, your post made me miss the Barbican bricks! I studied (!) around the corner from the Lounge and have spent hours having quiet drinks up there. As you say, you can't do too much with the interior in a place like that, but it really fills a purpose. And it's great not everyone being aware of its existence since they then tend to stay in the cantine on the ground floor :-)

  8. London Lady - Might be time for a re-visit!

    Lizzie - yep, prices are very fair.

    Mr Freelancethoughts - Definitely a good option before the night's entertainment.

  9. Hey! That braised oxtail looks so yummy! The prices seem reasonable as well!

  10. Gourmet Butcher - It was totally melt in the mouth stuff.

  11. I love the cinema at the Barbican - my favourite in the whole of London. I usually try to combine my trips there with dinner at the Fox and Anchor, but the Lounge actually looks quite good. And I do like drinking in cultural institutions - makes me feel clever.

  12. Just thought I'd follow up and say that I dropped by Searcy's last night (the Barbican's "main" restaurant), and bc I don't to blog about it, I thought I'd just leave a comment here. : ) While everything (the food, service, decor) was pleasant, it was all super pedestrian and pricey for so much pedestrian-ness. Mains hovered at the £18-£20 mark, and even the pre-performance menu was not a big savings over ordering a la carte.

    Eating in the Lounge sounds much better, I'd say.

  13. Gin and Crumpets - I love the Barbican cinema too.

    An American in London - Great tip, thanks for coming back to comment.


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