Little Black Book of Dining: the happenstance
It was Monday morning.
A crisp, pleasantly wintery Monday morning but Monday nonetheless; and I – like many other Londoners – woke with a sinking feeling interlaced with mild panic at the prospect of another busy working week. What better way to kick out my lethargy and kickstart the day than a brunch meeting deep in the heart of the City?
The happenstance is located on Ludgate Hill, a most convenient location for many City workers, and after a vigorous walk via St Paul’s – with the bells ringing out in an aptly rousing chorus – I was ready to munch. The appealing surroundings only increased this feeling; the entrance to the happenstance – the bar area – is light, airy, almost loft-style, with a welcoming mix of comfy chairs, chunky wood tables and quirky vintage touches. The feel is invitingly casual yet chic enough for a business date. We opted to stay within this area to enjoy the view and eat our breakfast, but there is also a large restaurant for more formal dining at the back of the restaurant, as well as a private dining room downstairs.
To start we ordered a breakfast cocktail each, charmingly entitled ‘fogmatic’ (to clear the fog from the night before, apparently). My breakfast martini was delightful: refreshingly tart thanks to the pink grapefruit juice with just a hint of booze and sweetness to finish from the marmalade. My companion was less keen on her Paloma; it had a strangely cloying quality with a bitter finish, which was a shame.
Nonetheless, we awaited our breakfasts eagerly and fell on them when they arrived, due in equal measure to the attractiveness of the plate and the rather lengthy wait. My colleague’s ham hock hash was deliciously pink with a perfectly cooked yolk on top that was just begging to ooze, and my spiced fried chicken looked plump and crispy – a good start. As it turned out, my chicken delivered on its early promise: it gave a satisfying crackle as I cut into it but was still moist. The well-seasoned bird was complemented by a rich mayonnaise with just a hint of chipotle (I could have done with more, actually) and some crunchy, slightly sour gherkins that cut through the fattiness perfectly. No sign of the cheese promised by the menu, though – perhaps just as well. The dish didn’t need it.
Unfortunately the ham hock was less successful. Less a hash than a ‘mash’, the soggy meat mix was a little bland and there was no real sense of any one defining flavour. Simply put, this ham was not terribly hammy. It was also tiny; my companion is a slender individual but still managed to wolf it down in about three bites (okay, maybe more than three. But you get the picture). In addition, my tasty ‘dirty bird’ was on the small side for an item advertised as one of the venue’s ‘large plates’.
We might have enquired as to the size of the other dishes on the menu – particularly those described as ‘small plates’, egads – if we could find a member of staff, but after breakfast service was disappointingly slow. This lull gave me ample opportunity to digest my thoughts as well as the food, and I couldn’t help conclude that this was a fitting end to the happenstance experience; it promises so much and, while it does deliver on many levels, the small details need more attention – these can make all the difference. I’d go so far as saying that we’re a pinch of salt and a more attentive waiter away from a wonderful venue for both corporate and non-corporate dining (but come on, chaps, give us a few more bites on each plate.)
The Finer Details
The Restaurant: the happenstance, 1a Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7AA
Suitability for Casual Dining: 4/5
Suitability for Corporate Dining: 4/5
Best For: Catching up with friends – morning or night!
The Damage: Brunch: Around £20 for two people, Lunch/Dinner: Around £45 for two courses (x2 people), excluding alcohol. Cocktails are from £6.95 each, with wine from £16.95 a bottle.
How to Book: Call 0845 468 0104 or click here.