The Ape & Bird Restaurant Review

London, 11-03-2014

The Ape & Bird dining pub has been located, since November, in the same spot as the previous Marquis of Granby, at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and West Street. It is the perfect busy location, at the junction of the far end of Covent Garden and the very beginning of Soho. The team behind the Polpo, have offered here at the Ape & Bird, a two floor casual dining venue and have even extended the experience to the next-door premise that now houses a pub and a basement cocktail bar.

We went to the Ape & Bird on a windy Sunday evening, the large red curtain at the entrance restrained the cold and street noise outside and leads us to the meet & greet. We have been asked if we were coming for diner or for some drinks, in order to direct us to the main dining room or to the pub at the back of the restaurant.

We have been placed along the windows on the left side, with a great view on the rest of the room, the central wine bar and the stairs to the first floor. Unfortunately, the upper floor is closed on Sundays, we could only imagine what the massive mural by the London based artist Neal Fox looks like.

The tables and bar are dressed up with wine glasses, individual candles and cutlery, as an invitation to taste one of the wine bottles displayed behind the bar and on the back wall.

The curved bar has a rounded wooden top and a riveted copper counter front. In keeping with the rusty pub look & feel, the venue design features metal tiles on the ceiling and exposed massive extraction pipes. The first impression is that the place has a controlled factory feeling and the oxidised overall look is balanced by the off white walls and clean reclaimed large timber board flooring.

The other characteristic you might notice first is the warm and low light level. The candles, small pendants and naked bulbs on chandeliers, give a cosy and welcoming feel to the space.

Respectful of the traditional gastro pub offer, we went for the pig scotch egg as a starter, a brown trout with watercress and the Sunday roast as mains. Some twists came along the dishes, the scotch egg has crispy celeriac tiny fries on top and instead of a classic horse radish, we had a minty/lemony sauce.

Located close to the Seven Dials, it is quite natural to find a selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses on the Ape & Bird menu, alongside to some generous desserts.

Between courses, we could appreciate the curious layout, only made out of round tables for two (there is only two small tables for six at the back of the room) with a collection of ‘pub look like’ red upholstered/gold nails, low and high stools. 

The bistro table legs, are topped with either marble or riveted aluminium top and add to the 1850 factory look. Series of coat hooks and order coupon hooks are displayed on walls and give a homely feeling. And a series of herb pots displayed along the windows give a fresh natural touch to the interior.

The freshness and interest in ingredients and plants is also shown on the menu, with the date stamped on the top of the paper sheet and a page ripped from a botanical book that comes with your bill.

After our diner, we needed to know a bit more about the chatting coming from the back of the room. The back pub has two entrances, the main one through the restaurant and a second one on West Street, which gives you a direct access to the public house.

If you come from the restaurant, you will pass by a shortangled corridor with raw wall finish, homely sconces, narrow shelf and tiny framed bird prints.

he floor changes to red and white lino tiles and the ceiling drops down significantly. The main finishes are in the same vein as the dining room, with off white walls, rusty ceiling tiles and bistro tables.

But this time the bar features a copper top and a wooden counter front. Wood strip banquettes placed under the atrium window must give an outdoor feeling during the day.

Really narrow copper counter height tables, in the middle of the room, help people getting close to share a beer. Again, candles and copper pipe lighting gives a low glowing level into the room and create an intimate feel to it.

The gold lettering on windows advertising the public house the Ape & Bird respects traditional pub aesthetic codes, with a contemporary treatment of the interiors and offer. (Unfortunately, the venue activity is reduced on Sundays, we couldn’t appreciate the basement cocktail bar, it will give us the occasion to come back to the Ape & Bird soon.)