Located behind impressively huge doors, Beach Blanket Babylon in London’s Shoreditch (one of two BBB locations – the other being Notting Hill) is a dark and sophisticated affair. After being swept through the bar area, we were seated in a leather booth on the mezzanine, and our charming waiter left us to admire the glossily amber-toned décor.
I took my dad with me (major daughter brownie points) and had no worries of being drowned out by pumping music, something many new restaurants fall foul of. Also, while the restaurant was moodily lit, it wasn’t so dark that my dad had to request a torch, or whip out his specs just to read the menu.
Our good impression thus far only improved when we were kindly brought over glasses of fizz from the bar, a complimentary gesture that was a really nice touch in making the evening feel special. Drinks wise, I decided to kick things off with a cocktail, following the waiter’s recommendation of a ‘Bewitched’, which was a pineapple, and vodka long (about the same length as my arm!) cocktail, muddled with ginger and basil.
Although the bar were unfortunately out of basil, the cocktail was still nice, but not that memorable. My dad stuck with red wine, favouring a pinot noir, which he enjoyed. Once we had decided on our meals, we were also brought a delicious bread plate with soft, warm bread, good quality olive oil and butter.
Our starters arrived quickly, and were generously portioned and well seasoned. I had chosen the steak tartare, or ‘chopped beef’ as it was called on the menu. This was a delight; beautifully tender fillet steak, cornichons, capers and mustard with a gloriously yellow egg yolk perched on top. It came served with toasted sourdough and was really almost a meal in itself.
My dad’s starter was similarly excellent- he had plumped for the clams with nduja which was richly spicy with an abundance of sweet clams. It had hunks of soft white bread torn into it, which soaked up the piquant juices a treat.
Moving on to our main courses, we had decided to share the baked lobster and lamb cutlets, and had a side of purple sprouting broccoli as well. The lamb cutlets were again generously proportioned, and served pleasingly pink in the middle. They came with new potatoes and greens and were suitably traditional and ‘manly’ for my dad, keeping him quite content. The lobster, however, was a bit of a let down.
Although reasonably priced for a whole lobster, the tender tail meat was dry and over cooked, and the mash-like filling that ran the length of the shell was slightly bland and stodgy, making it difficult to detect the flavour of the delicate lobster. The best meat was to be found in the claws, which was sweet and juicy, as good lobster should be. That being said, it certainly is a fun dish as you are armed with a lobster claw-cracker and a lobster fork, which encourages you to get messily involved with your meal- something I certainly did!
I feel like a dip or sauce would have livened up this dish, as lobster should feel like a real treat. It did however seem to be a highly popular dish as during the course of our meal we saw several platters of it being brought out, so perhaps I was just unlucky with mine. The purple sprouting broccoli we chose to accompany it was fine, and a decidedly more virtuous option than chips, but would have benefited from a touch more seasoning.
As my dad isn’t much of a sweet person, we shared (I say shared, I mean asked for two spoons and I ate it) the praline cheesecake with orange marmalade which wasn’t too heavy and was delicately flavoured with the punchy orange cutting through any richness.
I also had another cocktail, this time opting for the Babylon Cooler, which was a vodka drink flavoured with grapes, crushed lychees, elderflower liqueur and topped with bubbles. This was more impressive than the ‘Bewitched’ as it had visible chunks of fresh fruit in it, and was served with a lemongrass stirrer, creating an interesting fusion of flavours.
Overall, Beach Blanket Babylon is a glamorous experience, where the lovely, attentive staff make you feel like a star, and the food is generally well executed. Starters were the main attraction for me, and both the clams and steak tartare come highly recommended. In such glitzy surroundings, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself, and with its excellent service, Beach Blanket Babylon ensures that everyone has a good time.
Beach Blanket Babylon Shoreditch
19-23 Bethnal Green Road,
London, E1 6LA
020 7749 3540
Mon – Thurs 5pm – 12am
Fri – Sat 12am – 1am
Sun 12am – 12am