The Drift has an enviable location in a contemporary and noteworthy building but in the heart of the historic City of London. Its address is Bishopsgate but one finds the front door on Houndsditch.
Yes, dear reader, I was thinking the same thing – that perhaps the owners, Drake and Morgan, didn’t like the shabby connotation of a Ditch, preferring the more wistful name of Drift. And it’s true that Houndsditch did once have an unsavoury reputation.
A ditch was dug outside Roman Londinium’s wall but this disappeared with the passage of time. The Danes then dug a protective ditch around the city. Refuse, in those days, was just as much an issue as now. It was too convenient for the adjacent houses to dispose of rubbish and that, it seems, included dead dogs. The name Houndsditch appears in the 13th century but before that time it was just known as ‘the ditch’. By the turn of the 20th century, the street had become a celebrated clothes market, at last shaking off its reputation as a canine cemetery.
One of the gates to Londinium
Bishopsgate has a rather more classy history. The Bishop’s Gate was one of the gates to Londinium. It was originally the entrance for those coming from the northeast into the City, and crossing London Bridge, which was the only bridge on the Thames in those days. In medieval times these gates would be closed at night and opened again in the morning. First mentioned in 1210, the gate was removed in 1775.
The Heron Tower is officially called 110 Bishopsgate. It’s the tallest building in the Square Mile of the City of London financial district. It’s an impressive and dominant glass structure, and near Liverpool Street Station. The Drift is well placed for those travellers who are looking for a quick bite before boarding their train, and for workers from this building and those numerous offices in the surrounding City.
It will tick a lot of boxes
The Drift isn’t trying to impress passionate foodies who admire minuscule portions on hand-made Japanese dishes. They are not seeking a reputation as the spot for 28-day-aged exotic aardvark. This is about sensible food, affordable prices and comfortable, casual yet smart surroundings. It will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of diners.
The space is light, modern, well-designed and attractive. There are well-spaced tables for couples, tables for small groups and benches for larger parties. The open kitchen allows for a little culinary theatre, and perhaps one might catch a whistled selection from ‘shows we have loved’ from a young chef.
We started with cocktails. Whisky Sour on the rocks is a classic and a favourite. This one was mixed from Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and bitters, and finished with shaken snowy egg white. It has an adult taste rather than being a ‘dolly mixture sweet’ style of cocktail.
Delicious and decadent
My guest’s Mojitocolada was served in a highball glass and was made with Koko Kanu rum, which is a blend of natural coconut essence and white Jamaican rum. It was garnished with pineapple and mint. Refreshing and fruity and deceptively alcoholic. Don’t ride your bike home after a couple of these.
Gin drinkers will appreciate London Spritz served in a wine glass. This was Tanqueray gin, cucumber, elderflower, apple, mint and topped off with soda. This one is a real summer evening cocktail, and will likely be enjoyed by those who want a Pimm’s but without the excessively herby finish.
Tiki Punch is another dramatic cocktail for rum lovers. A copper cup was filled with a summery libation of coconut-washed Venezuelan Pampero rum, banana liqueur, more pineapple, lime and stout. I didn’t think this one would work but all the ingredients sang in sweet harmony.
Grilled Asparagus topped with perfectly Poached Egg napped with Hollandaise sauce was my companion’s starter, a simple dish that needed no extravagant garnishes. The asparagus had great flavour from the char and the sauce had plenty of refreshing lemon. Crab Bruschetta was my starter, which comprised two slices of toasted bread with a mound of flaky shellfish, bejewelled with chilli and spring onion – delicious and decadent.
I had another little taste of luxury for my main course. Crayfish-topped Flatbread with baby gem lettuce, cherry tomatoes and a generous drizzle of the classic Marie Rose sauce. It looks impressive, being a board-filling bread with plenty of the good stuff. A lovely presentation and tempting at this time of year.
Buttermilk Chicken Burger was my guest’s substantial main dish. A chicken burger makes a change from the ubiquitous beef but can often be dry. This fried chicken was juicy and served with chipotle mayonnaise and the usual fixin’s on a sweet brioche bun. Onion Rings came in a chunky tower along with a pot of Cowboy Fries. The menu describes the dressing as honey, chilli and garlic but it spoke to me more of a barbecue sauce. A great combination.
The Drift offers something for everyone. Burgers were popular with other guests but diners will be missing out if they don’t stray from the old faithfuls. Food isn’t intimidating here, although the menu offers both classics and more innovative plates, too.
Monday to Wednesday 7:30am till 11pm
Thursday and Friday: 7:30am till midnight
Saturday: 10am till midnight
Sunday: 11am till 6pm
Phone: 0845 468 0103
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018