Barbican Kitchen, Plymouth
This relaxed restaurant housed in a world-famous gin distillery (*hello!*) has serious staying power, thanks to the Tanner Brothers.
At Muddy, we love to tell you about new openings and events that give us the tingles; but while one ear is firmly rooted to the ground, it’s also lovely to be able to remind you of those more established and successful haunts out there that deserve as much recognition as the newbies. It’s no mean feat to survive in business these days, especially in the food and drink world, so hats off to the Barbican Kitchen on Plymouth’s historic Barbican, for maintaining a consistently brilliant reputation for being a brilliant dining spot for more than ten years. What a treat it was to be invited to don the stretchy pants once again, for dinner.
Plymouth’s eating scene has seen a bit of a tug ‘o’ war going on in recent years (with a few casualties along the way), between the relatively new Royal William Yard waterfront development and the eternally appealing Barbican. The latter, with its cobbled streets, galleries and boutiques, and whiff of fresh sea air boasts a prominent landmark: the historic and world-famous Plymouth Gin Distillery. And it’s here, tucked upstairs that you’ll find the buzzy Barbican Kitchen. The Tanner Brothers clearly have a bit of Mystic Meg about them and knew that being located where the ‘drink of the moment’ is made, would be canny. Gin aperitif, anyone?
What always appeals to me is how colourful and fresh the restaurant feels encased in the shell of a characterful building. It’s a blend of old and new that works well, as does the relaxed, informal vibe. Sliding glass doors mix with whitewashed exposed brick and splashes of pink and turquoise are complimented by cool, colourful artwork. And an open kitchen always adds a touch of entertainment, particularly if you catch owners Chris and James Tanner practising their art.
It’s always nicely busy (as illustrated during our visit on a Tuesday night) and it’s a great option for groups, given the layout, as well as catering well for smaller, more intimate dinners. It seems to do as good a job at being vibrant and buzzy for parties, as it does romantic for couples.
There’s no ambition to be overly fancy or clever with the food, here, which I find a bit of a relief. This is the place to come if you want to see a nice variety of classics, cooked by making the most of our brill local producers, with just the right amount of culinary flair. The upshot being that the food is realistically priced and plated up in decent-sized portions, while still feeling like a bit of a treat.
The menu’s (a la carte, or a set menu), while including favourites like beer battered fish & chips and Westcountry steak burgers and my Achilles Heel, Sticky Toffee Pud, also feature a few surprises, like sashimi, and the Barbican Kitchen ramen bowl, with fish and meat specials of the day. Veggies, fish lovers and meaty carnivores will all be very happy with what’s on offer. Fans of the grape will also be perfectly satisfied with the strong wine list.
While trying to eat something different, neither me or Mr Muddy could bear to miss out on the calamari starter.
For mains, I ate the seabass special on a bed of creamed potato, garnished with crunchy pomegranate jewels (above).
And Mr M couldn’t resist the Hanger steak, with roasted garlic butter. Happy as Larry we both were.
Then came pud and when it comes to the sweet stuff, we’re both traditional at heart.
We shared the Creme Brûlée with double chip cookie and the sticky toffee pud.
Colourful, flavoursome, expertly cooked.
AROUND & ABOUT
You’ll want to spend some time in this neck of the woods, whether you’re here for lunch or for the evening. Gin fans should absolutely make sure to have a tour of the distillery and bookend the event with cocktails at the upmarket and cosy refectory bar. Art-lovers will enjoy a mooch around the Barbican, checking out the galleries and boutiques full of glass, ceramics, jewellery and gifts. And if you really want to make a day of it, you can grab a boat from the Mayflower Steps, either taking in a trip across the Sound, or over to the Royal William Yard for drinks.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: groups, couples and corporates looking to impress their clients. Plus, it’s surprisingly child-friendly, with under 5’s eating free, from a lovely-looking menu.
Not for: KFC types.
££: Very sensible prices, despite the ‘celeb’ status of the chefs. Starters range somewhere between £5 – £11 (fresh seafood takes it up a notch, obvs); mains between £14 – £18 (fillet steaks at £32); there’s an excellent set menu for lunch and early evening diners, with 2 courses at £13.95 and 3 at £16.95.
Barbican Kitchen, Plymouth Gin Distillery, 60 Southside Street, Plymouth, PL1 2LQ. Tel: 01752 604448. barbican kitchen.com