It is located in the no-man’s land of offices and parkland between Exmouth Market and Clerkenwell Green, but Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings is well worth the detour.
Opened by the team which owned the subterranean Goodge Street drinking den Rev JW Simpson and Fitzrovia bar Bourne & Hollingsworth, the all-day restaurant and bar occupies a vast corner of a building which has housed various short-lived venues over the years including a sports bar, an Argentinian restaurant and an Indian curry house.
However the charm, style and excellent food offered by Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings – also known as B&H Buildings – should hopefully be enough to lure people off the beaten track.
The interior is designed around shabby-chic, members club meets country house-type lines with a grand piano, stripped white floorboards, a roaring fire, squashy sofas and a central bar.
We propped ourselves up at the bar and got stuck into the inventive cocktail list, going for a West Indies Gimlet (£9.50) with Navy strength gin (which gives it a kick at 57 per cent ABV), Caribbean syrup falernum, lime and bitters and the signature cocktail Hollingsworth Fizz with thyme-infused peach liqueur, gin and soda topped with lemon (£8.50).
There is a greenhouse-style dining room which was a bit too empty and chintzy for our tastes – it looked like the set for The Importance of Being Earnest, all flowery cushions and hanging baskets – so we shared a banquet by the bar which was far more inviting.
Our waitress, Vikki, was great – friendly, funny and not afraid to make some whole-hearted recommendations which turned out to be spot on. When we couldn’t decide between the riesling, the dry Tokaji or the sauvignon blanc on the extensive but rather uninformative wine list (just names, no descriptions), she brought us all three to taste from some lovely 1920s-style coupe glasses (and we loved the riesling as Vikki had predicted).
Our starters of warm roasted baby artichoke, poached egg, spinach and parmesan and smoked salmon salad, beetroot and horseradish (both £8) were delicious, with the smoked salmon itself being vastly superior to anything I’ve tasted recently.
My dining partner Andrea had the tempura cod fillet, potato rosti, mushy peas and tartare sauce (£16) – ‘It’s just posh fish and chips, right?’ she said, but said it was very good indeed – and I went for the lamb cannon – sadly not fired out of a gun – which was beautifully pink and came with a rosemary crust, potato gratin and purple sprouting broccoli – all really high quality.
As we happily scoffed and slurped away, all around us groups of people were doing likewise, either lounging on the sofas or chatting up at the bar, giving the whole place a very relaxed, friendly feel without the off-putting ‘self-consciously cool’ vibe which can dominate some bars (although the rustic roll-top bath which doubled as the sink in the loos was possibly overdoing it a little).
We were rather doubtful about Vikki’s recommendation of the Lime and Nocellara del Belice olive cheesecake but it turned out to be the dish of the evening – one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever eaten, not too stodgy or too mousse-like but with the perfect rich creamy consistency and tasting not at all of olives but with a perfect depth of flavour. The cheeseboard was impressive too.
A couple more glasses of the riesling and then we reluctantly departed into the dark streets at just before midnight having been the last to leave but certainly not made to feel that we’d outstayed our welcome by the friendly crew. It would be a great place to have on your doorstep but failing that, definitely worth making the effort to find.
Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road EC1R OHU. 0203 174 1156 Nearest tubes Angel and Farringdon