Paternoster Square is a striking corner of the City and owned by the Mitsubishi Estate Company. It is, however, quintessentially English with its location on the left-hand side of the mighty St Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. Its dome has dominated the skyline for 300 years. At more than one hundred metres high, it was the tallest building in London from the time it was built in 1710 until 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world.
Pater noster is Latin for “Our Father”, the opening of the Lord’s Prayer. The Square lies near the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest part of the City of London. The area takes its name from Paternoster Row, centre of the London publishing trade which was devastated, along with swathes of the capital, by aerial bombardment in The Blitz during World War II. It is now the home of the London Stock Exchange which relocated there from Threadneedle Street in 2004. It is also the location of investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.
The Happenstance bar and restaurant is on Paternoster Square, with an open space in front allowing for alfresco dining when the weather permits. Those balmy evenings have office workers enjoying cocktails in this striking neighbourhood, with views of St Paul’s.
This is a light and airy space with accents of fur, which seems quite Nordic and probably appropriate for most of the English summer! There is ample standing area near the bar, and seating for couples and groups. There is a beautiful room which could be for private dining, and another for functions.
The food menu is varied and eclectic, and appealing to the demographic of the City. Scotch Egg with chorizo and a garnish of smoked paprika mayonnaise was my guest’s starter and he reluctantly offered me a bite. That was an indication that this was a worthy choice. The egg was perfectly prepared with a still-runny yolk encased in a crust of well-seasoned meat. On the face of it this is a simple presentation but it so often misses the culinary mark. Happenstance did it deliciously well.
Broad Bean and Ricotta on Toast with lemon and mint was a seasonal treat. Fresh broad beans are sweet and tender when young and this was a joy of a preparation, and one doesn’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the texture and taste. Having said that, I think the dish could be elevated with a little garnish of prosciutto. It’s given me an idea for a smart dinner-party canape.
Fish Pie with cheddar potato crust, and a side order of tenderstem broccoli with a garnish of almonds was my main course. This was an attractive dish with a king prawn prominently balanced on top. It was a piping-hot traditional potato-topped pie, and comfort food to gladden the heart of any work-weary stockbroker.
Sirloin Steak Sandwich with horseradish, mayonnaise and truffle oil dressing was perhaps the star of the meal. Yes, just a sarnie but a great one, and particularly when partnered with the Roman Fries generously flavoured by parmesan, truffle and rosemary. That truffle was evident before it even reached the table: that enticing aroma wafted anticipation which was not disappointed.
Lemon Tart with crème fraîche was a light finish to the meal, but there was a surprise in the guise of Mr Black Cold Pressed Coffee Liqueur. This was a striking night-cap and superior to most other coffee-based after-dinner drinks. It’s not too sweet but convincingly tasting of real coffee.
Happenstance is evidently a casual restaurant and bar but it’s smart and appropriate for its location and clientele. The menu isn’t long but it doesn’t need to be. It would be an ideal spot for an after-work drink accompanied by a selection of starters or a pot of those unmissable fries.
Monday 7.30am – 11pm
Tuesday 7.30am – 11pm
Wednesday 7.30am – 11pm
Thursday 7.30am – midnight
Friday 7.30am – midnight
Saturday 10am – 11pm
10 Paternoster Square
Phone: 020 7618 9520
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018