Review: Barbican Foodhall And Barbican Lounge
After a summer's worth of refurbishment and a pair of name changes, two of the Barbican's three dining spaces re-opened at the beginning of October.On the ground floor, the old Waterside Cafe has morphed into the Foodhall. Spreading out across a sizeable, well-lit indoor area and out to a patio beside the Barbican's lake, the cafe has a decent, well-presented selection of coffee and edible sundries. There's also a salad bar and a choice between three cooked meals each day.Grub-wise, the Foodhall isn't all that different from its prior incarnation. However, it also sells a limited range of groceries, mainly regular deli staples and things you'd pick up from the farmer's market. It's a canny move, catering to both the captive audience in the flats above who don't fancy leaving the estate for their daily bread, and those who've caught a late show and want to grab something to eat on their way home. Full credit, too, to whoever designed the paper takeaway bags, which have a rather awesome graphic of the Barbican's concrete spire.The food is decent, but the same can't be said about the experience of eating. The Foodhall looks very appealing, all crisp white tiles and lightbulbs placed in huge olive oil jars, and on clear days it is illuminated by the sunlight that pours in through the windows; however, the ambience is soured by the aroma that bears from the kitchen, which smells like that of a hospital canteen. Meanwhile, the chairs seem to have been chosen for their discomfort, and the three booths in particular are difficult to sit in for long.If the Foodhall got a guarded response, the Barbican Lounge, formerly the Balcony Bistro, gets full marks. A cocktail bar-cum-eatery with Scandinavian styling that oozes a certain Mad Men charm, the Lounge has a tapas menu that eschews the familiar Spanish fare for a mixture of pan-European cuisine — particular highlights were the devilled monkfish, braised oxtail with pappardelle, and bacon-wrapped mussels. All of the dishes come in at under five quid, and for those in a rush, there's a Dine and Dash menu, with a guarantee that, should you be in a rush for a show, you'll be in and out within 50 minutes, or your money back.Of course, you could always forego that worthy but earnest dance performance and stick around in the bar area to sample the skills of the "macaroon mixologist", who matches macaroons to cocktails. It's an idea people will either love or decry as whimsy of the highest order.Barbican Foodhall and Barbican Loungeare located in the Barbican Centre, EC2Y 8DS.
Last Updated 24 November 2010