on October 6, 2012
The Strongroom is one of those multi-use restaurant/entertainment spaces that seem to be springing up all over the place these days, often in former industrial or commercial premises that have been given a new lease of life. I usually like them because I admire the ethics behind them, promoting the work of emerging artists and performers and using locally and ethically sourced products in the kitchen. This particular place started as a recording studio in 1984 when there were only a handful of active businesses in the area. The main building was formerly a furniture warehouse and Richard Boote who bought the premises and opened the studio brought in other arts related businesses to rent other parts of the building. Artists that have recorded at the Strongroom include John Cale, Nico and Nick Cave.The Strongroom is in the Shoreditch area of London, an area that’s great for exploring on a leisurely Saturday morning. We could have stopped at any of a handful of exciting looking eateries but the promise of a microbrewery sealed the decision. The bar is accessed through the courtyard which has been decorated in a modern urban style with quirky sculptures, plenty of greenery and a liberal amount of colourful art. There’s outdoor seating but we hurried inside on the day we visited. The main seating area is on a kind of mezzanine area so it’s not suitable for wheelchair users unfortunately. The décor is simple with the brick walls having been painted white which is ideal for displaying the varied selection of art, much of which is for sale. Simple wooden tables and chairs are unfussy and low level sofas give a comfortable option for those not dining. When we visited the music wasn't really to my taste - a bit too jazzy and funky - but I get the impression from looking at the staff that the playlist is probably quite eclectic, and looking on the bright side, the volume was sensible for a lunch time. It wasn't hugely busy when we visited but there was a decent enough stream of comings and goings for a Saturday lunchtime. The customers were mainly twenties to forties.We had gone into the Strongroom in search of lunch and we were pleased to find a small but varied selection of food available; as we had planned to meet a fellow Ciao-er for dinner that evening, we were also glad that we could see some choices that would satisfy our immediate hunger, but not fill us up so much we'd not want a big evening meal. Main meals are available but the sandwiches and soups are presented in generous portions and are quite filling in themslves. While there several items in the menu that appealed instantly, it was the discovery that the Strongroom has it's own microbrewery that excited us most; the beer is not produced on the premises but two beers specifically for the Strongroom are brewed nearby. there's also an eclectic selection of other beers, including loads of craft beers (local, national and international) and - to my great temptation - Stiegl Goldbrau, an Austrian beer I like very much. Those who don't (or are too young) to drink alcohol will find a good selection of juices, teas (they serve Tea Pigs!) and coffee and other soft drinks (such as Fentimans). There's an emphasis on independent and local suppliers, something I always like to see.After a little deliberation we made our choices and settled down with a half for me, and pint for Himself of the Strongroom Lager which we both enjoyed very much. Later Himself sampled a half of the dark stout which he also found highly acceptable. I'm not much of a dark beer drink so I contented myself with my pint.Himself had the French Onion Soup which was perfect in every way, There's an art to making a good French Onion Soup and somebody at the Strongroom has clearly perfected it. The colour was just as it should be, very very dark thanks to slow caramelisation of the onions, and the two cheesy toasts floating on top were chunky and topped with plenty of cheese. The flavour was deep and strong and yet it had clearly been seasoned with consideration. It was served with two pieces of excellent white bread, obviously made in house or bought from a local artisan bakery. The price of this culinary masterpiece? Just £4.50, so excellent value.I had a goats' cheese and beetroot sandwich which came with what was more like a mini side salad than a garnish. It was served on a wooden board and the presentation was excellent. The salad was colourful and I couldn't wait to tuck in. I wasn't disappointed. The cheese was delicious, creamy but not too much so and with that sharpness that goats' cheese should have. the beetroot was just roasted so that it still had some bite and the two flavours worked well together. Finally the bread - this delicious combination was served in a delicious soft bun with a crust that was just crispy, and not so crispy that it made it diffiuclt to eat. I like a crusty roll with soup, but prefer something softer for a sandwich. This cost £6.00 which might seem steep but it's the sort of price you'd expect to pay somewhere like this in London.If you're tempted but not likely to be in the area around lunch-time do not despair. There's a breakfast menu and an evening menu too. Breakfasts range from virtuous options such as museli to full English breakfasts (with veggie options available). The evening menu comes into play at 5.00pm and while some choices from the lunch menu (sandwiches, salads, burgers for example) are still available, there are additional tapas style options such as chargrilled halloumi and stuffed vine leaves for just £5 or broadbean, pea and ricotta fritters for £5.50.If you live in London or you're a frequent visitor it's worth taking a look at the Strongroom Bar and Kitchen website or signing up for their Twitter updates or Facebook page. As well as live music and DJs, there are occasional events in the yard in the summer when the barbecue comes out. From the photos on the website, it looks like it could be fun.I was really impressed with our lunch at the Strongroom and I'd certainly consider going back next time I'm in that area. The menu changes from time to time which mean there are even more reasons to go back and there are a few beers on the list that i'd like to try. The staff were friendly and the service was prompt. I'd recommend the Strongroom as a good place to stop for a coffee or something stronger, or to grab a tasty lunch or informal evening meal. If you live in the area it might be a good place to chill over brunch with the weekend papers though as it doesn't open until noon on Saturdays and Sundays you'll have to have that fry up at home first. I'd particularly recommend the Strongroom to people looking for some good vegetarian options; yes, there are delicious sounding meaty things, but the veggie choice is a bit different from the usual.Opening HoursMon: 09:00 -23:00Tue – Wed: 09:00 -00:00Thu: 09:00 -01:00Fri: 09:00-02:00Sat: 12:00 -02:00Sun: 12:00 -22:00Nearest tube - Shoreditch High Street or Old Street (both about a ten minute walk). The Strongroom is about five minutes walk from the Hoxton Hotel.
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