Excellent exhibitions. One of London’s best cinemas. That time you got lost in Beech Street tunnel and thought you finally understood the true meaning of Pan’s Labyrinth. Whatever it is that you associate with the Barbican, it’s safe to say that it’s one of the top places to spend an afternoon, evening, or an entire day, in London. Once all that culture and thoughtful chin-stroking has made you hungry, use this guide to find somewhere to eat. All of these spots are around a ten-minute walk from the main Silk Street entrance, and whether you’re after a pre-cinema Saturday brunch, some quick fire pre-show sushi, or a late night dinner and drinks situation, this guide has got you covered.
A famous, beloved British institution that is respected worldwide. No, we’re not talking about the Barbican, we’re talking about OG nose-to-tail dining, meaty-marrow-wielding royalty, St. John. This legendary Clerkenwell restaurant is one of those all-day, all-night, all-seasons spots that will be just as perfect for some pre-show, early evening madeleines and a glass of wine in the bar to a huge dinner involving pie, pheasant, roast bone marrow, wine, bread pudding, and more wine. You should know that this place also does a mean lunchtime egg mayo sandwich - yes, that’s right, we said ‘mean egg mayo sandwich’. Order it.
Cold, overwhelming, brutalist - those are all words we’d use to describe both the Barbican’s architecture and ourselves before 8am. But we’d never use any of those words to describe The Sichuan on City Road. To get the most out of this big, family-feel Chinese restaurant you’re going to want to come with a group, that way you can order everything from wontons to Sichuan beef to braised pork belly. Plus, if you’ve been looking for a way to get your mate who considers Keith Lemon to be the defining artist of our generation to come and see an actual exhibition with you, The Sichuan’s £5.50 dan dan noodles are great inspiration.
Pham Sushi is serving some of the best affordable sushi in London. And when we say affordable, we don’t mean that you might be able to escape with a bill just under £200 dahling, we’re talking £18 for a deluxe 16-piece set, including some pretty great nigiri. At the bottom of the Heron Tower, it’s a slick space with plenty of red leather and a few Japanese touches. Whether you come here for a business bento box power move or a catch-up with friends, be sure to also get involved in the tempura - we’re big fans.
Finsbury Avenue Square might feel like a pretty soulless setting for a romantic night out, but Bar Douro fills it with some heart. It’s a relaxed Portuguese bar and restaurant which you should be top of your list the next time you’re looking for somewhere to eat after a trip to the Barbican. And while you might come here for the counter seating and the laidback style of the place, you’ll stay for small plates of croquetes de alheira, the prawn rissole, salt cod hash, and the one absolutely essential order here, the creamy Azeitāo cheese served with homemade biscuits. They’ll also do you drinks and snacks throughout the day.
The Bad Egg: a new play exploring how veganism turns a postmodernist Humpty Dumpty into this generation’s Che Guevara. Okay, fine, we’re kidding. We wish we weren’t. The Bad Egg is actually a no-nonsense American diner that serves huge, decent burgers, and the kind of milkshakes that could cure any type of bad mood. At the weekend you can also get involved in their banging £35 brunch that casually runs from 10am until 7.30pm on a Saturday. Get the eggs benedict and you’ll make Humpty proud.
Ever since Geri quit the Spice Girls, we’ve been bitter people. That’s why when anyone describes anywhere as ‘intimate’ all we hear is that getting a seat will be a nightmare, and there’ll probably be some sad Yankee candle on your matchbox table. Kurumaya is an intimate sushi spot in the City, but luckily for you and our cold, cold hearts, none of the above are true. Yes, this affordable Japanese spot is pretty tiny, but they’ll do their best to find space for you ,and worst comes to worst, you can get all of the sushi to takeaway. We’d also recommend doubling your order and going in on the chicken katsu curry and a ramen too - we’re pretty sure that’s what 2 Becomes 1 was about anyway.
Nothing says ‘I forgot your birthday babe’ like panic-booking a panel discussion called Lust only to find out that it predominantly explores the correlation between Yorkie bars and Henry VIII’s ballsack. Time for take two, and few places impress quite like the counter at Luca. A warm and upscale Italian in Clerkenwell, they serve excellent pastas like rigatoni with pork sausage ragu and some parmesan fries that honestly might be the best thing since discovering the Barbican’s collection of podcasts. Although they have a big dining room you should call ahead to request the counter, they’re the best seats in the house.
Is Ask For Janice a euphemism? Is it an autobiographical finger-paint show inspired by Chandler Bing? Or is it the feminist take on Talk To Frank? Well, it’s actually a song by the Beastie Boys - but you know that, you have a Barbican membership - and it’s also a cool and casual spot facing Smithfield that is surprisingly useful. A light-bite and coffee situation by day, and a low-lit, negroni-fuelled bar by night, this place is perfect for a quick pre-show burger or several post-show cocktails. It’s worth knowing that they also do a £38 bottomless brunch and unlike a lot of local spots, they’re open until midnight throughout the week.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, will accompany your careful dissection of that Günter Grass play you saw quite like eating a giant schnitzel in a huge Munich-style beer-hall. Just think of all the interpretative potential of having access to six different types of sausage, spätzel, and more umlauts than the entire third act. This City spot can get pretty rowdy come late and you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for all of the Bavarian costumes, but it’s worth stopping by for their great value £10 lunch options or to get a bit silly after having to do all of that serious, intellectual thinking throughout your trip to old Barb’.
Barbie Green is an Australian-style café situation from the people behind Timmy Green in Victoria, with food ranging from solid sweet and savoury brunches, through to pizzas and salads for lunch and dinner. You can also get chicken parmigiana that’ll keep you nourished for about a week. It’s open till 11pm through the week, so it might also be useful if you get lost on the Barbican Highline and find yourself around here after a show.
Much like non-Heinz ketchup and condoms bought in pub toilets, Smiths Of Smithfield is probably not going to be your first choice, but it’ll do in an emergency. A big, four-floor restaurant opposite Smithfield market, they have a casual cafe-cum-bar area, a more formal upstairs grill restaurant, and a cocktail lounge with the very lowkey name, Death and Victory. Upstairs or downstairs, your best bet here is the burger, and it’s a good back-pocket spot if your original plan falls through or everywhere is rammo on a Saturday night.