Restaurant review: Bluebird Chelsea

Bluebird restaurant interior, Chelsea

BACKGROUND
Bluebird reopened last September following a £2 million refurbishment. Housed in the historic Bluebird Motor Company’s first garage, the redesign has drawn out elements of the building’s early 20th century heritage, with brightly coloured textiles, Chesterfield booths and industrial elements retained throughout.

Designed by Sagrada, who have worked on The Arts Club and Italian restaurant Sartoria, the former garage’s forecourt is now home to a stylish open-air bar, which, over the Christmas period, has been decked out with sheepskin covered sofas, frosted branches and silver baubles with twinkling lights. Executive chef Liam Smith-Laing has also relaunched the menu to offer simple, Mediterranean and northern European dishes using fresh seasonal produce.

WHERE IS IT?
On the Kings Road, about a 15-minute walk from South Kensington underground station.

THE VENUE
The restaurant is situated on the first floor where guests are greeted and shown to their tables. Supported by the garage’s original steel frame, the atrium features an updated, red paint job with a number of cosy alcoves and seating areas upholstered in velvet and soft leather.

The dining room is just behind the bar, where the space is enlivened with an array of greenery, including potted plants, ferns and climbing plants that wrap around the central frame. Tables are set among the shrubs, which add a little privacy. We sat at one of the widow tables that overlooks the courtyard and the Kings road – a perfect spot for people watching. On colder nights, guests are offered cashmere Broras blankets to keep warm.

Bluebird Chelsea interior

The marble-clad bar is located on an oval island at the centre of the restaurant, the structure of which is made from stainless-steel bumpers shields and lined with orange leather bar stools. At the top of the bar, miniature petrol pumps serve aged Old Fashioned and Negroni cocktails.

Bluebird Chelsea refurbished bar

THE FOOD
The menu offers both small plates and larger sharing dishes. I liked the simplicity of the menu, and the uncomplicated pricing. To start, we chose the classic steak tartar (£9), which was presented on a wooden board with all the ingredients separate, before being then taken away, mixed together and plated. The steak was not too finely chopped and beautifully seasoned. We also tried the BBQ quail (£10) which featured tender legs of smokey, sticky quail set on top of a chunky spread of guacamole.

For mains we tried the grilled calf’s liver (£15), and the Iberico Pork steak (£25) with sides of garlic puréed potato and fresh green beans (both £3). The liver was soft and pink, served with tangy peppers, olives and capers. The Iberico pork was cooked medium rare and one of the finest things I’ve eaten in a while, with dark, rich meat that almost looked like steak.

Our dessert didn’t disappoint either; the roasted apple crumble (all desserts are £6) was crunchy with soft apple and grape ice cream to go with it. The rum soaked savarin was alcoholic and lovely with a citrus granité cutting through the sweetness. We rounded off the meal with a strong coffee and a fresh mint tea.

THE WINE
The wine list is well considered with an emphasis on sparkling, English and natural wines, with a large selection available by the glass, and bottles from the Old and New World divided by style, over region. There is also an extensive list of Champagnes, while beer fans can opt for the Chelsea Blonde beer, brewed just across the road.

The sommelier suggested a delicious wine, Cours la Reine 2015, (£28.50) a rich red that was well suited to the food we’d ordered. He was well informed of the wines, enquiring into our personal preferences before offering suggestions that would suit these and the dishes we’d chosen.

THE COCKTAILS
The cocktail menu is inspired by drinks made in the local area, the highlight being the “301”, which is made with Bluebird Gin from Portobello Road Gin, served theatrically in a miniature Bluebird car. Only five of these cars are available each night. I tried a drink from the seasonal menu, the Brora warmer ­– named after the cashmere throws offered in the lounge – which used Tanqueray No 10 gin, Denham Estate apple juice, fresh mint, cherry liqueur and rose aromatics topped with sparkling wine. The flavours reminded me of Turkish delight.

Another option on the festive menu was the “Mince Pie in a Manger”, though beautifully presented, it’s perhaps not the best to have before your meal, served in a conical glass with vodka chocolate liqueur, clementine and amaretto, and balanced above a bowl containing a mince pie.

Bluebird Chelsea, mince pie in a manger

THE SERVICE
Fabulous service, warm, friendly and unobtrusive, staff were smart and seemed proud to work there.

VERDICT
This Chelsea stalwart offers a relaxed dining experience with superb food with a striking and vibrant new interior. It has a buzzy vibe, making it a great place to meet for cocktails and food alike.

OPENING HOURS
Lunch: Monday – Friday: 12.00pm – 2.30pm
Saturday – Sunday: 12.00pm – 3.30pm
Dinner: Monday – Saturday: 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Sunday: 6.00pm – 9.30pm

Bar opening hours
Monday – Thursday: 12pm – 12am
Friday – Saturday: 12pm – 1am
Sunday: 12pm – 10.30pm

CONTACT
Bluebird Chelsea, 350 King’s Rd, London SW3 5UU; tel +44 020 7559 1000
bluebird-restaurant.co.uk

Annie Harris


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