I often feel like St Pauls is underrated as a pocket of London, close to the river and perfect for an evening out, the views are stunning, especially in the summer months. With the buzz of city workers there are dozens of great bars and restaurants frequented largely by employees in the area but also great for those wanting to escape the tourist trap of Soho.
Paternoster Square sits in the shadow of St Pauls Cathedral sitting in the square gives you a different perspective of one of London’s most iconic buildings. And for those TV watchers amongst you, the square is also home to the Channel 4 show ‘First Dates’ restaurant. Despite these famous claims, the square, which is definitely buzzing isn’t over run and the summer months see deck chairs put up in the centre to encourage Brits to get a little sun at lunchtime.
One of the latest residents of the square is the latest edition to the Drake and Morgan restaurant group, The Happenstance which is a large bar and restaurant with modern seating, a plentiful drinks list and tasty bar snacks and comforting tradition dinner fare.
The Drake and Morgan group are responsible for some of the cities most favourite after work haunts, including, The Foley, The Fable, The Bothy and The Parlour amongst others. Each Drake and Morgan bar/restaurant has a hit of individual flare and personality but there is also an overall familiarity that means if you love one you will love them all. Most of the group are based in East and East Central, definitely targeting the after work crowd who are looking for some post work revelry.
The Happenstance itself boasts a great outdoor area for drinks and dining, while the large inside is still surprisingly cosy with both tables, bar seating and booth areas, as well as break out areas for larger groups with a real ‘indoor / outdoor’ feel and rustic decor that allows you to forget that your in a chain restaurant. There are pockets of the restaurant that along with friendly staff will make you feel more like you are in someones living room than a city haunt.
I took Hayley of Curves & Curls UK with me, as we hadn’t had a chance for a good catch up in a while and I wanted a good partner in crime to try the menu with.
We kicked off with cocktails and I have to say the selection is great, really varied, with good price points, especially for inner city drinks and while there are some old favs on there they have really worked hard to have a varied drinks menu with a number of cocktails for all the different key spirits. The presentation was also fantastic, with my more Pina Colada inspired drink coming in a tiki cup decorated with pineapple leaves and flowers and a light cinnamon dusting – it tasted as delicious as it looked.
- Tiki Punch £8.95 (yummy) Hayley opted for…
- Cosmo Cooler £9.95 (also excellent)
And if cocktails aren’t your thing (although there is something on here for every palette) then there is an extensive wine and champagne list, a selection of 11 different types of bottled beer and a choice of ciders – a perfect post work drink spot really – oh and also a comprehensive booze free cocktail list – which is quite a rarity in London these days.
For starters we got…
- Broad bean and Ricotta on Toast with Lemon & Mint £6.25 and
- Crispy Squid £6.50
I tucked into my broad bean toast, as the only vegetarian starter option it wasn’t the sort of dish I’d usually opt for and with a really tasty main menu I think as a veggie I’d head straight to main territory next time and save room for dessert. Hayley however really enjoyed her crispy squid, for under seven pounds both dishes were well portioned and would make great bites for after work.
There are several more vegetarian options for main meals which meant that I had a tough decision to make. The menu is homely with plenty of traditional fare. From battered fish and chips to warming risotto, roast chicken, bangers and mash, fresh and healthy quinoa bowls and nutritious salmon dishes. There is also a ‘burger menu‘ with traditional and more exciting options as well as the halloumi burger (which I ultimately chose) and a choice of 10 or 8oz steaks with a choice of sauces.
We opted for…
- Halloumi Burger which came with hummus, red paper and a flat mushroom £8.95 while Hayley went for a traditional choice of
- Steak with a béarnaise sauce and sides of spinach and chips. £19.95 + £2.95 for the sauce.
The selection of sides is great, with a mix of hot and cold vegetables and a choice of potato / chip styles or onion rings. I decided to go all out and plum for the trio of chips, a decision I fully recommend even if it is just for a snack. Literally a trio of chip styles that included, parmesan, rosemary and truffle oil chips, sweet potato chips and honey and garlic fries – honestly delicious.
Hayley really enjoyed her steak – great quality beef, well cooked, a really tasty meal. While I have eaten a lot of veggie burgers in my time, this was definitely the best tasting one I have had in a long time, and I don’t say that lightly! It was perfectly compiled, well seasoned and all together absolutely lovely. I was glad that I’d not finished my starter fully as it meant I had plenty of space for the burger but I was absolutely stuffed at the end, you can’t really say fairer than that for £8.95.
Stuffed to the brim and with excellently attentive staff, we asked for a brief intermission to recover but found ourselves coerced (willingly) into a round of gin based cocktails. The were fun and fizzy, perfectly refreshing on a summer evening.
While I declared my self out of the race, Hayley I knew wouldn’t let me down and while my heart said cheese board (to be honest any restaurant that has a cheeseboard is a yes from me), my head reminded me I had to bale out and let Hayley carry the torch alone as she tucked into one of my favourite desserts…
A Knickerbocker Glory £7.95 – a towering dessert of salted caramel ice cream, plum, honeycomb, cream & almonds. A piece of delicious artistry that rounded off the meal perfectly (I may have snuck a spoonful).
I always think the mark of a good restaurant is a good atmosphere, staff and the desire when you get to the end of your meal, to want to come again as there are still dishes you feel you need to try and I certainly felt that here at The Happenstance. A frequenter of their other establishments I am definitely keen to drag some colleagues down to this watering hole on a summer eve to sip a few more cocktails in this beating city centre bar with stunning views of St Pauls Cathedral. I’d happily munch my way through more mains and desserts and it makes for a great post work pit stop or for tourists looking to rest up just away from the busy heart of London’s commercial capital.
If you’re after a good time, don’t forget to happen upon The Happenstance.