There is something rather enchanting about Somerset House, and what a lovely setting it makes for Pennethorne’s Café Bar. Just standing in their courtyard you feel removed from the chaos of the city. Situated in the New Wing, Pennethorne’s is adorned in dramatic décor that seems to be ever so in right now. Black walls, brassy tables and dim pendant lights lined in rows. Unsurprisingly the majority of the crowd appear a little bit swanky-socialite.
The staff are a bubbly bunch (shout out to Phoenix & Paulo for looking after us so well). Speaking of bubbles, their champagne menu is small but comprises of three carefully selected essentials; Brut (£33), Prosecco (£27), and a Cuvee (£66) made in Sussex.
Seven PM and we appear to be the only guests eating, our waiter confirms most dining trade is over lunch period. Good to know if you prefer a quiet eat in the evenings.
The menu consists of breads, tinned and potted dishes, salads, meat and cheese selections and items served on toast. Probably why this attracts a lunch-time crowd- but the dishes are sophisticated enough to translate into dinner. As some of the dishes are on the small side it makes good for sharing- just be aware of what and how many of your dishes come with bread as we found ourselves looking like a bakery at full swing.
The bread was really well made (freshly baked by their in-house baker) and the menu boasts some lovely combos such as; Fig & Apricot, Bacon Brioche, and Walnut & Raisin.
Kale was on the menu in the form of Crispy Curly Kale & Ham Hock Salad (£6). Of course we felt the need to order the kale, as much as most restaurants feel the fear that their menu without kale on it will deem them as non-foodie-friendly. Although that looks set to change with cauliflower soon to be the new kale, as said by someone as insignificant as this very sentence. A pleasant dish of warm kale, salty ham with small jewels of onion run through it. Bringing a much welcomed lightness amongst the richness of the other dishes.
Potted Beef (£8). The meat appearing as pulled pork would, but in a cute little pot. Like the best bit of an amazing pie, tender flesh nestled amongst it’s own garlic, black pepper and red wine gravy. Sod the pot, bring me a trough. This was gorgeous.
Another favourite of mine was from the Mortadella as part of the Selection of Meats (£16). Rosette, Mortadello and Iberico Ham all being of fantastic quality- no yucky plastic textures that a lot of restaurants tend to fob you off with. Both Mortadella and Rosette cuts had great marbling. The Iberico was smooth and melt in the mouth, but my least favourite out of all three.
The favourite dish of our servers, and apparently a popular choice from diners, was the wild Mushrooms (£5) atop softly toasted bread. A good handful of wild mushrooms that still retained their lovely earthiness but amongst garlic and wine, and with a hint of something almost balsamic. I can see why this is popular as it all works very well together and is served in a perfectly sized portion.
For those unfamiliar with Nduja – traditionally, is an Italian spicy pork pate and is also set to be one of our food trends for 2015. No doubt it will be popping up on menus everywhere shortly! Pennethorne’s Nduja (£4.75) smells like it will blow your mind, and it will. Expect hot lips. If you like a chilli hit, then this is your dish. We found ourselves going back for more and more of this one- addictive.
Pennethorne’s have some real gems on their menu, and I really love the fusion of simple British traditions “…On Toast” and the tinned/potted dishes mixed with Italian influences. A bonus for garlic lovers, as Pennethorne’s love it too. The quality of ingredients you receive is great value for money.
Sad to see no desserts on the evening menu, their breakfast menu does list pastries/muffins/doughnuts/sticky buns/bakes etc; sounds delicious! It could be well received for them to also have these appearing on the evening menu.
Any fashion freaks visiting Somerset House for London Fashion Week this year, be sure to say hello to Pennethorne’s and go for the Mushrooms on toast, or Potted Beef.
REVIEWED BY: Jordan Lohan
ADDRESS: Pennethorne Cafe, New Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
VENUE PHONE: 020 3751 0570
PRICE: £££ (explained)
STAR RATING: ★★★ (explained)