The Happenstance, Paternoster Square – Review

Peter Morrell and his colleague enjoy a relaxing meal in the City of London

The Corney & Barrow roster of bars and restaurants will probably be familiar to many who have worked in the City of London. Most of these have now been acquired by the fast-growing Drake & Morgan group who have embarked on a comprehensive revamp of the restaurants and their menus but have kept the impressive wine list.

One of the latest locations to benefit from Drake & Morgan’s energetic approach is The Happenstance, formerly the Corney & Barrow premises on Paternoster Square, I recently had lunch there with a colleague

The Happenstance is a rarity among central London restaurants insofar as you can dine or simply enjoy a drink on the terrace outside without being disturbed by incessant traffic noise. Paternoster Square is totally pedestrianised yet within a few minutes walking distance of St Paul’s Tube, the world famous cathedral, the Millennium Bridge leading to Tate Modern and the high end shopping of New Change on Cheapside.

We were warmly welcomed at The Happenstance and immediately noticed the considerable efforts made to create an ambience where City workers, families and tourists would all feel comfortable. Opening hours of 7.30 to 23.00 Monday to Wednesday, 7.30 to midnight Thursday and Friday, and 10.00 to 23.00 Saturday ( closed Sunday ) means that The Happenstance serves breakfast, lunch or dinner virtually around the clock.

The interior of the restaurant has been re-furbished to a very high standard, it’s bright and airy with sleek décor that features modern art, detailing of copper and faux-fur and a wall decorated in Mondrian style. You can choose from a variety of seating – sofas, high bar stools and regular tables.

If you are feeling peckish as you browse the menu then nibbles like Italian green olives and smoked almonds are available. Starters featured temptations like chorizo Scotch egg and prawn lollipops.

My colleague started with a chicken satay with peanut sauce, the chicken was moist and flavourful with the sauce adding a piquant quality to the dish. I had chosen the crispy squid, which had a satisfyingly crunchy coating with tender seafood inside.

The mains are varied and will suit any appetite, I was quite taken by the topped flatbread delivered to the next table, there are salads, burgers and steaks as well as more traditional fish and chips and bangers & mash. If you are a vegetarian you will find a dish to your taste, ranging from a quinoa salad bowl to an halloumi burger.

My dining companion had the sirloin steak with chips and a side of buttered spinach. The beef was a taste to savour and mouthwateringly juicy. My main was Thai prawn coconut curry with basmati rice, the aromatic rice soaked up the spicy sauce and the prawn were large and well flavoured. Both of these dishes were well executed and presented

The wine list has a very good pedigree and is categorised by style, examples were ‘aromatic, vibrant and mineral’ for the whites featuring popular grapes like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay (chablis). In the reds ‘bright, ripe and smooth’ were one of the styles. Prices start at under £20 a bottle and the bulk are between £20 – £30. Our wine match for the meal was from the ‘soft, delicate and easy-drinking’ range, the Mas Oliveras Tempranillo from Bodegas Roqueta in Catalunya, Spain.

This was a good choice, there were aromas of blackberry in the bouquet which were joined by scented strawberries and dark plum on the palate. The finish was smooth and persistent.

The portions for the first two courses had been large so we skipped on the desserts. If you have got room then the chocolate brownies, Eton mess and knickerbocker glory all looked appealing. If you haven’t got a sweet tooth then there was a selection of British cheeses.

This had been a very good lunch, the service was very friendly and professional, the surroundings comfortable and the food and wine excellent. My colleague and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back, either for a meal or a relaxing drink on the terrace.

The Happenstance
10 Paternoster Square
London EC4M 7DX
020 7618 9520


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