Open only a matter of weeks, this sultry newcomer is already a resounding hit with a trend-hungry crowd desperate for a decent hangout within the vicinity of this central postcode. An air of Prohibiton-style glamour pervades The Strand Dining Rooms, with shades of a Speakeasy-bar-vibe in the same ilk as hip drinking dens like Hawksmoor or the Nightjar. We sampled the cream of the crop at this new retro-style bar, where all infusions are brewed fresh in-house. First out of the starting block, London Cosmopolitan was a mellow, tea-infused concoction. This was probably my favourite for the mellow green tea foam and floating camomile flowers.
Rocking up with cigar-smoking swagger, I loved the inventively playful touch of the burning-ember cinnamon. Mixing Talisker and Ardbeg, you instantly know the Old Smokey is going to live up to its name. Subtly blended with plum, peach plus a zing of fresh lemon, this hardcore cocktail is served with a smoking stick of cinnamon, and any peated-whisky drinker should try it. And if you’re not one, it’s definitely an acquired taste!
Will & Simon’s selection comprised a mix of signature crowd-pleasers cocktails that are consistently requested. Pungent and tangy with lime, the Empire mule blends homemade spice-spiked ginger beer with caradamom and cloves; the warm spices mingling with the ginger beer. We can see why it’s one of the most popular cocktails at The Strand bar.
Next came Guvnor; a delicious orange-perfumed Old Fashioned-style creation. A boozy Kirsch-drenched Maraschino cherry lingered on the side, plump with a neat nip of whisky.
Taking its moniker from the nearby landmark, Nelson’s Column mingled fresh lime with prosecco, Hendricks gin and elderflower. The cucumber-infused drink had a retro feel with the juniper berries.
Banana Old Fashioned
One of the highs was the Banana Old Fashioned. Meltingly dark shards of salted chocolate added richness to the banana chip-infused dark liquid, which was honeyed and delicious, with hints of an orangey spice.
We also grazed on a few nibbles the chef had artfully slung together from dishes on the menu. Slithers of beetroot-cured sea trout with crispy skin and dill sat atop citrus panna cotta (savoury) with a tangy blob of marmalade. Walnut and blue cheese with pear, celery and fennel sat next to moreish Earl Grey duck breast, delicately smoked with a tart cranberry coulis.
The slow-cooked pork belly was to-die-for and came with plump, pearly scallops and a velvety, butternut vanilla mousseline. We’re told that they butcher and cure all their meat on site, and the next dish made me want to return sharpish for a steak. The Dedham Vale beef packed a meaty punch, tasting as good as anything I’ve tasted from the golden stables of The Ginger Pig, and was finished with parsnip, horseradish and a deep red wine jus.
Some intriguing homemade botanical brews macerated with herbs were presented as a parting gift. I don’t exactly know what was in there but the flavour was like a more complex mulled wine with pungent white and red fruit spiced aromas: a great substitute for the classic staple.
Novel interpretations on classics are what The Strand Dining Rooms excels at. And with the seafood scotch egg garnering semi-cult status amongst diners already, it’s not just the cocktails that wow. The high-ceilinged swagger of the dining room is reminiscent of The Wolseley and the traditional Austrian Grand Café, making this a popular brunch, afternoon tea and Sunday Roast favourite. With queues already forming for the grandest tables at The Strand Dining Rooms, there are plenty of reasons to pay a visit to this bold, new all-rounder.
The Strand Dining Rooms
1-3 Strand, Grand Buildings, London, WC2N 5EJ