At Burdock, a café, bar and restaurant, located on the ground floor of The Montcalm Royal London House in Finsbury Square, the staff keep things lively with spirited banter. Upon arrival one Saturday afternoon, we say to the gentleman manning the door, “We have a reservation,” and were met with sassy retort: “And so you should have.” This was paired with a charming smirk and a gentle usher towards the bar on the right of the entrance. Here, a waiter suggested we relax with a cocktail prior to settling down for our meal. When we probed him for the “Burdock favourite”, he replied, “Just point your finger at one.” He then broke out into a defiant grin: “No truly, they’re all superb!”
Charisma aside, both staff were on to something. Burdock runs on its own schedule: open 7 days a week from early morning right through to midnight, it’s got serious appeal and buzz. The level of refinement might come as a surprise however: fundamentally, you are drinking and dining in the lobby of a hotel. The establishment itself is sophisticated and quite urban-esque, with a kind of lounge vibe happening. Exposed brickwork, industrial copper lighting, wooden panels and a 1970s colour palette keep it smart and trendy, but not in that threatening “too-cool for school” manner.
And in such surroundings, it doesn’t take long to lull us diners into a very chilled out, relaxed mood. We slink into the low-slung armchairs, snack on smoked almonds, and sip on cocktails (of “finger-pointing-choice”) – the Cucumba Crusta and a Classic Margarita — for an easy start to a long afternoon.
We shake it up after one cocktail and move to the restaurant area as our appetites start to kick in. However, a bottle of wine is in order before we get started, and this time we don’t take any sass from the waiter as we’ve spotted a Chablis from Burgundy. Sorted.
Burdock smugly asserts that it ‘eschews regimented three-course dining’ in favour of share plates — which is fine with us, or the more reason to sample a wide range of the fare. The bar snacks are globe-trotting items (think Chickpea Chapatti, Taramasalata Kilner with Fish Eggs, and Duck Ramen), yet the remainder of the menu appears to stay true to ETM’s championing of British produce.
A standout dish is surely the Short Rib Tacos accompanied by pickles which pack a lot of flavour; other notables include the Charred Bavette with Salsa Verde, the Triple-cooked chips (who can resist?), and the Venison Meatballs with Blue Cheese — which, we concurred, should be a compulsory addition to any meatball dish.
Still inventive but less inspiring is the Napa Slaw jar. Usually a healthy-go-getter lunchtime knockout, the fuss and fiddle involved in retrieving a flavoursome mouthful that combined spiced pork belly, Asian herbs, cashews from the Napa Slaw was unfortunately not worth it.
All these dishes certainly did justice in setting the tone of the dessert to come – and we must say that the star of the show, by virtue of sheer volume was the Marathon Bar Sundae. Diners will be torn between fear (the whole jar?) and altruistic resignation (when in Rome…). Combining Peanut Butter Brownie, malted ice cream, choc-caramel sauce and peanut brittle to top it all off, it does the job of delivering a decent sugar kick.
Burdock is a great spot, which given its locale, the all-day drinking and dining option will see it do very well. And for those of us that fancy a decorous and posh tipple afterwards, sneak up to its rooftop sibling Aviary (before hotel-goers nab the best spot).
For more information, visit Burdock
22-25 Finsbury Square, London EC2A 1DX