Anthea Gerrie Enjoys The Rich Delights Of Scottish Fare At Pivot British Bar and Bistro
It’s not often you see Scottish dishes on a London menu yet given the quality of the produce north of the border, more should be the pride of every British menu, as they are at the delightful Pivot British Bar and Bistro overlooking the capital’s picturesque and buzzy Covent Garden Piazza.
The ground-floor bar, styled like a typical London pub, belies the elegance of the dining room above, on the first floor of a historic English townhouse. It’s spacious, bright yet intimate with its warm terracotta walls, and endowed with huge picture windows which capitalise on one of tourist London’s most iconic views.
Pivot would be a natural draw for its location but happens to have a secret weapon in Mark Greenaway, who has been voted one of the top 300 chefs in the world. As a Scot, he proudly showcases national dishes – the night I visited these included fresh langoustines and warm stottie, a round loaf which came to the table in warm tear-off triangles perfect for mopping up dips.
On that menu, which has now been slimmed down for spring, there were arguably too many courses, with bread and dips topping the list, and snacks in a separate category from the starters, mains and desserts. But that’s a mere quibble for those with enough appetite to do every category justice; I would hate to have missed out on a delicious Coronation Scotch egg (£8.50) I was encouraged to order from the Snacks category – perfect runny yolk and mango sauce.
Scots love to indulge in rich, fatty treats the English consider guilty pleasures – they invented the deep-fried Mars bar, after all – so it was no surprise to see a split bone marrow (£4) on the Pivot menu. It was worth a few minutes’ wait to get it roasted to order to tuck into while still piping hot and almost liquid. A more genteel choice was the whipped Devon crab butter (£5) with chives and lemon, more solid than “whipped” suggests, but absolutely delicious.
Scottish treats dominated the starters, from smoked salmon to the grilled langoustines (£17), one order of which fed two plentifully, with a saucer of melted garlic and parsley butter to dip yet more bread into, this time an excellent sourdough. Seafood broth sounded about all I could manage after that lot, but I should have known, given it was priced at £24, that this was a misnomer.
Actually three small but perfectly grilled fish fillets – cod, salmon and sea bass – perched atop a rich, creamy saffron broth and punctuated with a few tiny whole carrots and green beans. My companion had an excellent roasted cod fillet (£23) which came in a fine soupy broth of its own, described as warm tartare sauce but much more interesting; unlike the now-departed Seafood Broth, the cod remains a stalwart of the new spring menu.
Bone marrow has survived in the form of a rich beef shin and bone marrow pie (£26.50) and so has excellent charred hispi cabbage, the only wintry survivor among more summery sides like heritage tomato and potatoes and roast Jerusalem artichokes – all £8 per portion.
No one needs dessert after this feast, but it’s worth noting that the chocolate mousse (£10) is intriguingly served in a coffee cup garnished with caramelised hazelnuts and clotted cream – ambulances, please! Wines, of course, can be a help in digesting rich food, and we enjoyed a white Rioja fermented in barrel(Hacienda El Ternero Blanco, £11.75 for a generous 175ml); a Smoked Old Fashioned, based on a mix of Woodford Reserve bourbon and Islay malt(£12) would make a fine digestif and might have staved off the heartburn I suffered later – but my goodness, food this good, albeit rich, was absolutely worth the suffering.
Given Pivot British Bar and Bistro is in the heart of London’s theatre district, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Royal Opera House and theatres along the Strand and in Covent Garden, a pre-theatre menu is a plus – £35 for three courses without wine, £48 including a carafe. That star dish of roasted cod is among the choice of mains, and for starters, naturally, there is Scottish smoked salmon, a better choice than the only duff dish we tasted, a slightly dry chicken and hazelnut terrine.
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Pivot British Bar and Bistro, 3 Henrietta Street London WC2E 8LU