Absolutely apt in eagerness for the release of Absolutely Fabulous The Movie 1st July, The Gay UK were PR-ed an equally fabulous brunch invite. We, emanating fabulousness were only too joyed to Lacroix-up, sweety, and head to Clerkenwell London’s (CL), 155 Bar & Kitchen in – you guessed it – scenester-site and trendy-wendy haunt Clerkenwell.
Moi’s dining chum was running a smidge late – he said: “fell back to sleep”, we say: “Bolli Stolli” – which gave ample opportunity to saunter round the labyrinth that is CL’s 13,000 square metre concept store. The tour started in the nordic-loft-apartment-esque CL’s 155 Bar & Kitchen, a long rectangular room with taupe painted brick walls, dark wood floors and newfangled saloon bar with rich-teak tables methodically spaced. Chairs accessorised with sheepskin throws, Finnish wooden funnel-shaped birch-slat lighting shades and hints of a botanical garden. Clean lines, simplistic – cool and laid-back. Edina and Patsy wouldn’t grumble.
From the restaurant you walk into the first section of the store which feels like a Mike Leigh filmset, only missing Alison Steadman, a 1970s Vinyl Lounge with custom-built decks facing a round Starship-Enterprise/Emirates-first-class style martini bar. The next room is a boutique selling hand-picked objets d’art and “gorgeous, tasteful, little stylish little gorgeous things – sweety darlings” as well as housing a glass and iron cube art gallery displaying works from local artisans. Each corner of the boutique leads to either a men’s or ladies’ tailors.
You walk downstairs and you arrive at the Dior of furniture showrooms exhibiting the handcrafted haute couture works of Tree Couture – the Henry Moore of furniture. On with the exploration: behind a mahogany-coloured leather-tiled partition hides a men’s casual department offering On Tour t-shirts, Bethnals jeans and Stutterheim raincoats – we likie.
Turn left and you’ll arrive at what looks like Nigella Lawson’s post-modernistic kitchen with a huge oak work-island for spreading avocados and racking up lines of coconut-chicken skewers. In fact it’s the mother of all wine-tasting rooms, walls lined with jewels such as Sophia Loren’s favourite fizz: Tendil & Lombardi Cuvée Rosé Champagne NV, and organic plonks from Chateau La Coste by one of the most gifted winemakers of his generation, Matthieu Cosse.
CL hosts educational wine-tasting events – with Master of Wines Sarah Abbott and, wine brand developer and founder of Above Sea Level wine and culture magazine, Aimee Hartley – for £15 per head. We at The Gay UK are always keen to improve our already well-trained palettes – we’ll be booking in.
And finally the piano room: another sizeable space that has a touch of the King’s-Road-avant-garde-lounge-bars, complete with private dining room and baby grand. Contempo ostentatiousness simplified.
Appetite primed, back to the bar and kitchen.
On recommendation I ordered savoury waffles: house-made waffles, maple-glazed streaky bacon and scrambled eggs at £11. Creamy waffles with a vanilla undertone worked swimmingly with the fluffy eggs and strong woody flavours from the crispy bacon – all elevated by mapley sweetness. My comrade went for avocado and eggs: smashed avocado with créme fraîche on toasted sourdough and two poached eggs at £9. The eggs were runny, and the créme fraîche gave our green calorific friend a lighter texture, colour and taste without the sensual gestures and voluptuous curves.
The staff are slick and standoffish. Brunch is from 10am to 4pm – you can pay £15 per person for bottomless fizz, available for two hours from your booking time – we were game. They’ll serve you an award-winning Paladin Prosecco DOC Tappo Spago NV, flowery, light and aromatic with citrus notes. Not too dry or acidic – a bloomin decent prosecco. Dangerous with so much tempting merchandise on display.
The Gay UK are looking at relocating to 156 Farringdon Road; failing that, we’ll just set up camp in the piano room.
Reviewed by: Thabian Sutherland
Address: 155 Bar & Kitchen
155 Farringdon Road
Telephone +44 (0)20 3675 8847
Star Rating: ★★★★★ (explained)
Price Rating: ££££ (explained)
Tipping Policy: An optional service charge of 12.5% will be added to your bill
I’ve lived in the Old Smoke since 1999 with a career in fashion, fitness and events. I discovered the joys of writing beginning of 2014. Since then I’ve been tapping digits to keys. Subjects include food, theatre, exhibitions, London life and other topics that tickle my taste-buds. Other publications include Timeout, Gay Times and So So Gay Magazine.