Ape & Bird is Russell Norman’s latest venture and unlike his other restaurants (Polpo, Spuntino, Mishkin’s and soon to be opened Polpetto) this is a pub – and a very large pub at that. It’s situated in that bit of Cambridge Circus that’s always manically busy, right next to the Pizza Hut and it sits in the former site of the Marquis of Granby. They’ve also knocked through to next door too so it really is big.
Inside it was a beautiful affair; it felt simple like a pub yet there was plenty of attention to detail. There were two areas that served food - upstairs which felt more like a dining room and less “pubby” or the ground floor where you could either sit round the small tables or perch on a stall at the bar. We chose the latter as it had a real buzz to it.
As it was only their second day of previews it was 50% off food so my gentleman companion and I popped along for a spot of lunch. Some house bread and butter kicked things off and although it wasn’t the best bread I’ve ever come across it certainly filled our holes.
They had devastatingly run out of the pig trotter scotch egg starter (£7) that I had been so looking forward to. This would have been totally acceptable if half an hour later Mark Hix and Tom Parker Bowles hadn’t walked in and managed to bag themselves one! I was green with envy.
Instead, I opted for the penny buns, squash, salsify and roasted garlic (£7). Hopefully you don’t know what penny buns are either – they’re a type of mushroom similar to ceps. The squash puree and the soft garlic that oozed out of its skin were delightfully sweet – both being the perfect accompaniments for the mushrooms. Totally divine.
My gentleman companion opted for the blood pudding hash, fried sprouts and soft poached egg (£8). The egg was poached to perfection and the yolk had a bright almost neon orange glow to it which was lush. The hash however was cold and a touch bland. The fried sprouts were hardly noticeable either.
For main I opted for the rib eye steak, chips and béarnaise (£20) which was heavenly. The beef cut like butter and was full of meaty flavour. The chips were fat little beggars but were totally crispy and well seasoned so I didn’t mind – I normally like my chips thin. The béarnaise was really rich and tangy – this was a delicious plate of food.
My gentleman companion’s cheeseburger (£9) was only let down by the fact it was cold. There was plenty of shredded lettuce and pickles giving it quite a fresh after taste which was pleasant and the two slices of gooey American style cheese helped glue everything together.
The cauliflower & cheese (£5) came with a gloriously cheesy crust but the cauliflower beneath was a bit watery. The potato skins and rosemary (£4) were incredible and are definitely a must order. They were proper crispy and aggressively seasoned with salt and rosemary – I fell in love with them!
Puddings were both delicious and belly filling. The blackberry and apple crumble (£6) had the perfect sweet biscuity topping which was washed down with a big jug of custard. Some of the chunks of apple were a bit big and undercooked though. The sticky date pudding with ice cream (£7) really hit the spot. If you love sweet, sticky sponge puddings then you can’t help but love this.
Service throughout our lunch was really warm and friendly. Considering they were still finding their feet in brand new surroundings everything seemed to be running perfectly smoothly. The food however wasn’t all outstanding but we left feeling full and happy. Given its location I don’t doubt for a second that Ape & Bird will do extremely well. I definitely want to return for one of those trotter scotch eggs….