Test Driving Spiritland Royal Festival Hall - music, cocktails and more for the South Bank

spiritland royal festival hallIt's all about putting on a show here, from the theatrical curtains framing the open kitchen to the acoustic architecture of the dining room.

So what do we need to know about Spiritland?

This is the company's third opening in London - they have a headphone bar (it's a shop, really - it doesn't serve drinks) in Mayfair and a café, bar and radio studio in King’s Cross.

Where is it?

They've taken over the old Canteen space at the back of the Royal Festival Hall, on Belvedere Road. If the food market is happening, you'll find it behind that. The nearest tube is Waterloo.

Where's good to meet for a drink first?

Why look anywhere else when this has such a cracking bar? There's a huge outside, heated space but the bar itself is just lovely. We started the evening with a couple of extremely well-made cocktails.

cocktailsOur Algonquin  - rye whisky, dry vermouth, salt roast pineapple cordial  (£11) and a Torreador  - Tequila, apricot, lime salt and smoke (£10). Both so good they made us want to go back and slowly work our way through the rest of the cocktail menu.

Where should we sit?

There are a couple of larger tables for groups in the main dining area but, if you can get them, the booths are definitely the best.

What's on the playlist?

An odd question, you might think - but at Spiritland the music is as important as the food. This may have been the most perfect dining room for acoustics we'd ever been in. There's a pair of vintage Air Partner speakers alongside acoustic panels on the walls and ceilings, so you can actually hear what your dining companions are saying even with the music on pretty loud. And then at 9pm a DJ arrived. On the night we were there it was Sally Rodgers (ex-A Man Called Adam).

What's on the menu?

There's a wide selection of mostly veg-led starters, and then you can choose from a selection of meats or chicken from the grill or a whole fish of the day (which was seabass when we went). There's a choice of sauces and sides too. We had to google/ask our waiter about quite a lot of what was on offer - fennel atari goma puree for example.

Here's what we had:

crabCrab with prawns, jalapeno creme fraiche and bonito (£11) - comes with the bonito flakes gently wafting in the breeze and with a decent kick from the jalapeno.

aubergineAubergine with puffed wild rice, black garlic, tofu and kale (£9) - a little bit too worthy a dish for our taste - this could have done with something to spice it up a bit. 

porkA lovely bit of pork ribeye, expertly cooked on the grill (£19). One thing, though - there are some ace sauces on the menu like chorizo hollandaise and tarragon chimmihurri - but the meat comes with all this (very nice) jus. It might be a better idea for the kitchen to put it on the side so you can mix and match all the sauces. 

celeriacA pitch perfect side of creamed celeriac with skordalia (£5). So comforting.

dessertsDesserts were a highlight - we really enjoyed the rosemary buttermilk pannacotta with rhubarb and black puree with honeycomb but the urfa chilli dulce de lech with passionfruit, meringue and popcorn just edged ahead. (Both £7)

What about vegetarians?

A lot of the 'starters' are veggie so you could easily have several of these to share. There's an interesting sounding dish of galotiri cheese with fiorelli pasta, medjool dates and date molasses and almonds (£9) and we also liked the sound of the Biber Calcasi cauliflower with kale saag and green mango yoghurt (£9).

Overall thoughts

There was something very pleasing about this space that made dining here enjoyable. It's interesting to see just how much of an effect design can have on an eating out experience. Dishes were a little hit and miss, but we'd 100% come back here again when the still-to-open oyster bar is unveiled later in Spring to check that out too. But most of all, this area badly needed a good bar and in Spiritland it finally has one.

Hot Dinners were invited to Spiritland. Prices are correct at the time of writing.  


More about Spiritland Royal Festival Hall

Where is it? Belvedere Road, Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX

How to book: Email receptionrfh@spiritland.com or call 020 3146 1982

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @spiritland


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