the UK based Restaurant and Hotel Review

Another in our series of Performance Pit Stops

Where to eat in the Barbican Arts Centre

The Balcony Bistro

 I quite liked the Balcony Bistro when I visited it almost exactly a year ago. Last week I was off to a concert at the Barbican Concert Hall, so I popped in with a couple of my Syracuse University music students in tow. 

Was I in for a surprise! In the meantime, the place has undergone a total revamp - with back lit screens and minimalist styling - Zen influence gives a really cool feel to the place which was previously a bit institutional and past its sell by date. There's a smart bar where you can lounge around and have bar snacks with your drinks, and an outside area which we didn't see.

The menu is very simple, with no obvious division between starters and mains. This is ideal, as one's choice is likely to be dictated by time available before a performance starts. Also, I don't like sitting in a concert hall or theatre with a full tummy. 

Delia had the pasta dish, rochetti, served in a creamy alfredo style sauce with a nice, not too sharp lemony flavour interspersed with torn basil leaves. I had the cod, spinach and plum tomatoes. The cod was served fashionably upside down, which is a bit pointless unless the skin is really crisp which this wasn't. But the spinach was tasty as was the tomato, which was a bit like the stuffing from Imam Byaldi, which by the way is on the menu. Lisa had the Balcony Burger - I said I wanted an all-American critique of it. She liked it, (Hooray!!),  pointing out that it was slightly irregular in shape and tasted obviously home made. The massive chips that come with it are to die for - you have to guard your portion - Delia and I kept homing in on poor Lisa's plate! We treated ourselves to a glass each  of The Stump Shiraz from down under, which consoled Lisa a little in her loss. 

To finish, Delia enjoyed some trifle - which was new to her - she was intrigued by the sherry! Lisa was very pleased with her chocolate mousse and discovered that fresh raspberries go well with chocolate. I had a very deeply filled yummy plum and almond tart.

Service is prompt and helpful, and the whole makeover has been a success. Dishes range from 4.95 for the soup to 12.25 for a casserole of confit duck leg, bacon and peppers, (or the cod). Puddings are 4.50, wines range from 12.50 to 25.00 and most are available by the glass.

 Clifford Mould, November 2004

The Balcony Bistro at the Barbican Arts Centre, London 
Tel: 020 7628 3331

PS: On the floor below, level with the Barbican Lake, there's the Waterside Cafe where I ate before a concert featuring the London Symphony Orchestra. There's a daily choice of well cooked dishes from the buffet at around 7 a helping. The desserts are extremely good. It's a bit 'of its time' in terms of interior decor, but in the summer it really comes into its own when you can eat out on the terrace overlooking the lake.  

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