High quality ingredients do come at a cost and some of the starters on cafe 21's menu cost upwards of £15 and their main courses are in the region of £18-22 with sides charged as extra plus you have to consider the 10% service charge that will be added to your bill. I do believe you get what you pay for though and if I had more disposable income, there's no question Cafe 21 is one of the places I would spend it. If like me you have a budget to consider, Cafe 21 do offer a more purse-friendly early evening special (Monday-Saturday 5:30pm-7pm) which is priced at £18.50 for 2 courses or 3 courses for £22. This menu is decent and certainly something I will return and try. I imagine it is of a quite similar standard to their restaurant week menu we tried a few weeks ago.
Restaurant week is a fantastic time to try new restaurant's or old favourites and Cafe 21's menu looked impressive. 3 courses for £20 was exceptional value when you consider this included both smoked salmon and seabass which are fairly expensive ingredients. I was joined for the evening by my friend and fellow blogger Shivani (check out Cloud in a teacup for gorgeous photography) and our friend Paula who we've both worked with before on various blogging missions but never actually met in real life. Cafe 21 is a fabulous place to meet up with friends - the service is professional and un-intrusive meaning there will be no awkward moments or interruptions of important conversations. The ambience is buzzy and exciting - it feels like there's lots going on and you're part of it! Plus the music is pitched at just the right level so you don't need to shout to be heard.
Here's what I ordered:-
Smoked Salmon Croquettes with Lemon Mayonnaise
Fillets of Seabass with French Beans and Almonds
Cinnamon Doughnuts with Spiced Custard and Chocolate Sauce
My food was beautifully cooked and well presented. My only criticism would be was that the portions were on the slightly small side, especially my croquettes. However what lacked in portion size was certainly made up for in flavour. I've never tried Seabass with almonds before but loved it and my doughnuts were most definitely something I would recommend and re-order. Shivani ordered a cheese souffle for her starter and I had severe souffle envy! Her portion was huge! I think souffles are kind of a signature dish of Cafe 21 and I am definitely going to order one on my next visit.
As I discussed with the girls on the evening - I always think a good indicator of a restaurant is how spreadable their butter is. There is nothing worse than sitting down to your table, noticing their is a lovely basket of bread for you and then not being able to spread it with butter as it's too hard! I always think I'm going to have a good evening if somewhere has taken the time to ensure their butter is at room temperature before it's placed on the table. I am pleased to say, Cafe 21 passed the butter test. I predicted we were going to have a good night and we certainly did.
New restaurants come and go but Cafe 21 has been serving fantastic food in the heart of the city for a good few years now and still has a reputation as being one of the best. I'm pleased to say that based on my experience this is an accolade they deserve and if you're looking for somewhere to catch with friends, Cafe 21 would be a great option. Don't expect fancy techniques and the latest gimmicks but do expect high quality food that is beautifully and simply presented and served by a lovely and experienced team who know what they're doing. You'll always be well looked after at Cafe 21.