Stepping into HBB, it’s not just the food that’s wafting through the air – this stunning old building was once a stained glass factory, owned by three men Heaton, Butler and Bayne, and where the restaurant gets its name. The vaulted windows and candlelit white room make for a perfect, near biblical haven those stormy nights that might periodically pop-up this month.
In its new life, 150 years later, Heaton Butler and Bayne has been resurrected (from the ashes of The Forge) by the owners of La Deuxieme. At the helm is head chef Jonas Karlsson – who allegedly left his native Sweden after its economic rating was downgraded (let’s hope he doesn’t get wind of the UK’s recent lapse). He has previously graced the kitchen in Harvey Nichols. But this is a far cry from a department store. The surroundings are classy, a bar area graces the entrance and the spacious dining room is simply furnished. The friendly staff seat us and quickly advise on the best cocktail to try, Ceci’s Dream. We weren’t disappointed, and you could also go for the Bayne bloody Mary served with an oyster on the side.
The menu is not extensive but has seasonal written all over it. I opt for asparagus, hollandaise and poached egg – a classic that was creamy, rich and accompanied by an utterly delicious dill salad. My companion tried the fresh seafood salad, which was only slightly tainted by the flavourless prawns. For mains, we chose saddle of rabbit and dared to put the chefs through the risotto test. The rabbit saddle was cooked well and accompanied by soft polenta – not the most complimentary pairing but both cooked well. The pea and mint risotto was tasty and cooked as an Italian would expect.
For dessert, our elderflower mouse with shortbread and almond crumble was excellent, creamy and not overpowered by the fragrant flower. Doughnuts with caramel cream were not enough like the fairground variety for my taste, but made for a good sharing dessert all the same.
The main courses hover around the £17 mark – which isn’t unusual for central London. The surroundings and good quality food make this an intimate and actually quite romantic place to dine. There is even a ‘Madmen’ style drinks lounge in the basement, where you can be stylish and alluring, until you have one too many of those delicious cocktails that is… (Words: Laura Thornley)
For more info, visit: www.hbbrestaurant.co.uk