An oasis of calm on the edge of The City, this intimate wine bar offers charm, class and even barbecue parties.
One of a chain of wine bars in The City, this Corney and Barrow is hidden away among the towering office blocks of Fleet Place, off Newgate Street and the Holborn Viaduct, with comprehensive Thameslink and tube connections at nearby St Paul’s. The outdoor terrace, which can be a real sun trap from spring onwards, is shielded from the goings on of Fleet Place by tall, well-pruned hedges, and it is made up of picnic tables under heated navy blue gazebos – although these are removed during warmer spells.
The front of the restaurant is made of imposing panes of glass tastefully bordered by wood, so the sun-worshiping can carry on unchecked inside. There is less seating to be found here, but overcrowding is not a problem – the busy clientele don't tend to linger too long - and there are a number of low tables, bar stools, and comfortable red padded chairs to suit your needs. The wooden bar is the centrepiece of the room, and is certainly impressive to behold: set out in a zigzag pattern along the back of the room, it boasts countless bottles of wine, jeroboams of Champagne and a number of bottled beers in highly polished fridge cabinets. As for the toilets, they are discreetly tucked away in a separate corridor to the left of the bar. The decoration is unobtrusive and tactful, with black and white framed prints of wine paraphernalia, clocks for several different time zones, brown wooden railings and full-length taupe curtains rounding out the interior. There are two large TVs on either side of the room showing sporting events and news channels on mute, but otherwise the overall impression is one of subtle charm, intimacy and City chic.
The bar is available for hire, exclusive or otherwise, and barbecue parties can be organized for nearby companies, depending on the weather. Although there are no regular scheduled events, wine tastings and pub quiz nights are organized on request.
Almost exclusively a hang-out for City-dwellers, Corney and Barrow offers an ideal lunchtime getaway for busy executives, as well as an after-work retreat. More a place for discussion than debauchery, the atmosphere is usually relaxed and sedate, with easy-listening music piped in and dimmed spot-lights providing intimacy. The staff are very attentive and personable, and the service is excellent.
The lunchtime menu is limited in scope, although don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll leave unsatisfied. For £9.95 you can order a vast chicken Caesar salad or prodigious amounts of shepherd's pie in a pool of gravy and fresh peas. If that's too daunting for you, sandwiches such as roast beef and horseradish or spicy chicken breast ciabatta are available for around £6-£7. The small but tasty selection of starters, all approximately £4-£5, double as the evening ‘nibbles’ menu, designed to complement the infinitely more varied wine list. The white bean and lime hummus with warm Turkish flatbread is particularly recommended.
Wine is the be-all and end-all of Corney and Barrow, and the wine list will make even the most blase connoisseur pause and take a deep breath. With over 70 varieties from around the world available by the glass, and an ever-changing roster of new vintages and rare discoveries, it's almost impossible to keep up with the menu, although you could do far worse than settle for a glass of house red - a superb Vin de Pays at £4.35 a glass and £14.95 a bottle. Elsewhere, any of the Sauvignons or Chardonnays come highly recommended, and the 2008 Vina Mar Reserva Pinot Noir is an excellent, spicy choice. Prices range from around £5.50 for a small glass, up to as much as £9.85 for a large glass of the more distinguished brands, and bottles usually cost anywhere between £20 and £35.
Prosecco, Cava and Champagne are usually, but not exclusively, sold by the bottle, with big names such as Laurent Perrier, Louis Roederer, Krug and Dom Perignon on offer (expect to pay over £120), and the bar even goes out of its way to accommodate the filthy rich: a Nebuchadnezzar of Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label is a mere £1200, should the mood take you, but you’ll need to pre-order. Port, sherry, cognac and even mulled wine are all available, and every conceivable type of vodka, gin, bourbon, whisky and rum can be found, starting at £3.25 a measure. Delicious Champagne cocktails are available for roughly £11.50, and classics such as the Sea Breeze or Cosmopolitan (around £7.50) are created with aplomb. Finally, there’s niche bottled beer from around the world, including Steinlager, Bitburger, Kirin Ichiban and, a favourite, Sheppy's Oakwood Special Cider (all under £4), as well as draught Peroni on tap, at around £4.10 a pint.
The Last Word
Corney and Barrow's extensive wine list and intimate charm make up for its rather safe and unadventurous selection of food. A City-goers favourite, and justifiably so.