B&H Review: Bottomless Brunch in the Country?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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                     A STORY FROM THE ARCHIVES in EAT: 

We see your old, abandoned country house; lush greenery has generously stretched itself over the walls. We see the fireplace - tired but charming. We see how natural light casts faint, intermittent glows across marble tables. We see the chairs and sofas in their mismatched glory, filling the house with character. We see all this and raise you the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, it has all these bucolic trappings but with the convenience of being located in London! This means it’s better, obviously - who cares about fresh, clean air and all of that other weird country stuff?! Scroll on already, let’s go!
B&H Buildings, 42 Northampton Rd, EC1R 0HU
Nearest Station: Angel OR Clerkenwell  /  Parking: Street Parking
Food: 3/5  Service: 3/5  Atmosphere: 3/5  Cost: ££ - Fairly priced

A preferred dining area within the house, ideal for slower and more talkative brunches where leaning into the low wooden trunk just feels more intimate. There are faster-paced standard tables at the other side of the brasserie and in the garden.
The Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings are famed for the Bottomless Bellini Brunch served at weekends, despite this we had only ever been (four times before) for midweek lunches and dinners. As believers in both bellinis and brunch, we didn’t need convincing to make a change. We made a booking for early Saturday afternoon and made our merry way.

Fresh, fragrant rosemary and a cameo of peach bellinis. Note that the fruit used in the bellinis is seasonally changing, ask your waiter to find out what the house is serving during the week of your visit.
When we arrived, the sofas and low tables at the front of the brasserie were occupied so we took our seats at one of the marble tables towards the back. I immediately said to my friend “Michelle, I really don’t like this table.” She affirmed that I wasn’t just being my particular self but that it was indeed uncomfortable. This space, though charmingly decorated with quaint paintings and hanging plants, felt a bit too busy. It’s quite open in that you can see almost every other area of the restaurant: the garden behind, the kitchen, the middle room, and the front. At peak brunch hours that means you constantly have people walking past you, be they waiters or fellow guests, and generally have busy activity in your line of sight making it difficult to settle down. 

Nonetheless, having lunched and dined at the B&H Buildings before we were looking forward to the actual food - especially since there is a new chef heading the kitchen since one of our last visits, the Michelin starred Adam Grey. Keeping in mind that Adam likes to let the ingredients do the talking, we ordered some uncomplicated dishes confident that the freshness and quality would be rewarding.

Bottomless Bellini £18
My main: smoked garlic, roasted tomato and herb tagliatelle.  £9
To share: Drop scones with clotted cream, berries and honey. £7
Michelle’s main: Eggs Benedict – ham hock and béarnaise sauce on English muffin. £8.50

True to tradition, thick shavings of parmesan sit pretty on top of the tagliatelle.
The drop scones which we shared.
Then came the moment of truth; the food was underwhelming. Michelle’s Eggs Benedict looked austere but she did note that they were filling, she felt that nothing else about them was worth comment. My tagliatelle was equally filling and looked inviting but went awry in terms of taste. I could see tomato but not taste it, the herb was similarly indistinct but coupled with the strength of the parmesan made for a generally mineral-like taste. I’m the kind of person who genuinely likes oysters so the taste didn’t offend me. However, if I had wanted anything that evoked oysters I wouldn’t have ordered a vegetable and herb-based tagliatelle. Thankfully, we ended our meal on a more pleasing note as the drop scones were delicious. The berries were refreshingly tart, the clotted cream readily melted in the mouth, and the scones themselves were fluffy on the inside. 

The ingredients in our dishes were definitely fresh and of a good quality, they just didn’t seem to have been put together in any interesting way. Combine that with the fact that service was jittery (cutlery being dropped more than once, bellinis being served spilling out of the flute, and prolonged waiting) and our Bottomless Bellini Brunch didn’t feel worth leaving our houses for.

To find it, look out for the black building proudly boasting the house flag alongside the Great British one. You cannot miss it.
If approaching from the other side, the wheelbarrow garden will be a giveaway.
We do remain impressed with the lunch and dinner menus at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings but may not return for the weekend offerings. Our advice for a more pleasant Bottomless Bellini Brunch experience is as follows:

  • Book your table for earlier in the day! 10-11:30am is less busy so the atmosphere will be more relaxed and service is sure to be at its most attentive.
  • If you’re in a party of 2-3, ask to be sat in the garden or at the front of the house. With a larger party, ask to be sat at the dark tables in the middle room or any of the tables at the front of the house. 
  • Order more interesting dishes like the Huevos Benedictos, Lobster Royale, or Braised beef. Alternatively, build your own version of the Full English from the individually listed items on the breakfast menu. 
  • Rather than stick with the bottomless bellinis (wonderful as they are), try a cocktail too. That way you can play around with flavours that complement your meal and are more exciting. 
What do you think of these tips? Do they encourage you to still check out bottomless brunch at B&H Buildings?

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  1. Have any of you been to the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings before? What was your experience like? Let me know by commenting below!

    Esmé Xo

  2. Beautifully written as always and from the title I was very excited but felt underwhelmed after the read as I wanted the food to be amazing. However, thank you for this post. I will definitely visit as I am curious.

    1. Hey Arielle! Thanks for commenting directly.

      As said on Twitter I always want to write about my experiences with integrity so that you, my readers, can trust my opinion and advice. Whilst this particular experience wasn't the best, many other bloggers sing the praises of weekend brunch at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, they must get it right sometimes then. Hopefully they will do when you visit and the four bullet points at the end of this post help you to have a far more impressive and enjoyable experience.

      Esmé Xo