Open Mon–Thu 11.30am–11pm, Fri–Sat 11.30am–midnight, Sun midday–11pm
I arrive before my date/friend (I’m really not sure what we are) and am led to a corner table at the back—the best spot, really, being far from the bar and sort of sectioned off, like the appropriate end of a plane.
Dying of a hangover, thanks to a typically excessive supper with my favourite alcoholics the previous evening, I avoid eye contact with the waiter as I sheepishly request a Bloody Mary (£10).
Date/friend arrives before said Bloody Mary, punctual as ever, just as I realise quite how hungover I am, and that I really, probably ought to have stayed at home. But one brilliantly executed Bloody Mary later and I’m happily perusing newly-appointed head chef Liam Smith-Laing’s menu. Mediterranean, contemporary influences make almost every dish appeal as much as the next, but the fantastically good-looking waiter sways me, in broken English, toward the daube of beef (£16.50). Date/friend orders the baby chicken with cavolo nero (£14.50) and a side of garlic mashed potato (£3).
First up, though, was a steak tartare (£9) for him, and the crispy fried prawns (£9) for me. The steak tartare came with its constituents in several separate bowls. Finely diced raw sirloin, then a mix of cornichons, capers, marinated peppers, red chilli, jalapenos, anchovies, spring onion, chives, tarragon, confit lemon, mustard and white balsamic, with a quail’s egg to either mix in or serve on top, and bread alongside.
The prawns were really more langoustines, and the aioli was really more hollandaise. Which were both Good Things, as it was absolutely delicious.
He went on to order a G&T, while I tried to make conversation—painfully aware of my bloodshot appearance and inability to sustain a train of thought.
The entrees, however, were an excellent distraction; the slow cooked beef so tender date/friend asked if it was possibly too tender, and whether that was in fact a bad thing. But it should be noted that he also asked me what a tortilla wrap was when describing a burrito he’d made earlier. His chicken was so juicy and flavoursome he likened it to game, and the garlic mash, swoon—I’d come back for that alone.
I went on to cure my hangover with a lychee cocktail, ‘Made in Chelsea’ (£9), which could best be described as over-dilute Ribena, but then followed it up with a far preferable ‘English Garden’ (£12). Date ordered a ‘Speedway’ whiskey-based thing (£10), which I have on good authority was delicious.
Service was attentive and for the most part competent, faulted only by the need to request a drinks list twice from a second waiter.
The interior refit is a vast improvement, preserving the art deco architecture for a modern yet timeless look. Think vaulted ceilings with original lead window frames, uplit trees and climbers encircling steel girders, stretching out and rambling across the double-height ceiling. Brown leather and 50s fabric banquettes were combined with a selection of proper armchairs and, most importantly, lighting to hide a hangover—I’m not above admitting I did a quick mirror check while he was in the loo.
We finished up with a vanilla crème brulee (£6) and profiteroles with salted caramel and pistachio ice-cream (£6), both amazing, both of us too full to finish either.
Bluebird has gone from a social spot that’s fun for a night out to a serious contender on the restaurant scene. The food has always been good, but the refurbished interior makes the upstairs restaurant feel like a destination in itself, rather than an afterthought to the buzzing terrace below.