Monday, 17 November 2014

The Ape and Bird: where you get what it says on the tin

Ape & Bird
It's been a year since Russell Norman (of the Polpo empire fame) transformed The Marquis of Granby into Ape & Bird. 

Ape & BirdApe & Bird
Whilst keeping the architectural integrity of the old pub, he also kept the spirit of his Venetian-bacaro concept restaurants which is reflected on the menu of small plates. 

Ape & Bird by Polpo
There's also a pizza oven installation producing Neapolitan-style pizzas and other oven-roasted dishes.

Ape & Bird by Polpo
Unforch, the wine list isn't too exciting. We paid thrice as much the retail price for a so-so sauvignon blanc.

Zucchini Fries, Ape & Bird
We fell in love with the zucchini fries (£4). Lightly battered but generously seasoned, this is pretty good pub grub and is one of the rare few dishes that made me want to drink a pint of beer.

Whole Roasted Market Fish, Ape & Bird
I went for the whole roasted market fish (£12) du jour (which turned out to be sea bass). I rarely see whole fish served with its head here so this was quite a treat. The fish, apparently roasted in the pizza oven, was surprisingly well cooked. I liked the simplicity of its presentation and seasoning. It really made the produce the star of the show.

Ape & Bird by Polpo
The fennel, almond, endive salad (£6) is exactly what it is. I usually stay clear of anything that tastes of aniseed but the roasted fish called for it. I loved the bitterness and the crunch.

Bavette, Rocket & Parmesan | Ape & Bird by Polpo
The sliced bavette, rocket and parmesan (£10) looked like a mess on a plate but it's a good steak dish. The beef, lean yet tender, had a great cook on it and shone through with minimal seasoning, with the bitterness of rocket and the sharp tang of parmesan elevating the dish as a whole.

Pork Belly, Lentils, Apple | Ape & Bird by Polpo
The roast pork belly, lentils, and apple (£8) was quite a favourite for our group. I liked how crunchy the pork belly turned out and the apple sauce was a kicker. The lentils were great, except there was just too much of it. It could've been perfect if there'd been more protein than pulses.

Pork Shoulder Pickled Pepper Pizza | Ape & Bird by Polpo
We ordered a variety of pizzas which were admittedly not as bad as we expected, but not as great as Franco Manca's. My favourite was the pork shoulder with pickled pepper (£9) They were generous on the cheese, which was gooey.

Service was a little loose. We had a couple of plates taken away even though we've not finished them yet (my fish included). To be fair, when we complained about this, they took out the service charge. We still tipped anyway.

So... Ape & Bird a year on is still standing, perhaps mainly due to its delivery of what's exactly on the menu and the non-intimidating facade of a pub. It is, after all, "a pub for people who hate pubs". 

Ape & Bird
142 Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London WC2H 8HJ | +44(0)20 7836 3119
Ave spend pp: £25
Like them on Facebook. View their menu on Zomato.
The Ape & Bird Pub on UrbanspoonSquare Meal


  1. Thanks for sharing, Honey - this made for an interesting read, as I've been debating whether to visit Ape and Bird or not for a long time. Have to say it's also quite timely, as I've been to Polpo for the first time last Friday!

    Now that I made that experience, the similarities strike me. The food looks (and, I bet, is) really good, just like at Polpo, but it seems to me that the tendency to price portions well over what their size would justify is the same, too. So maybe this isn't as up my street as I hoped for...although I could do with those lentils and that pizza right now! :P

    1. I miss you Fed!
      Polpo is still the better place, I'd say, if you think about it overall. I think Ape & Bird is good for groups who want the ambience of a casual Friday night get together rather than a dining experience. The food is not bad, it's actually decent, but it could be noisy too!