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I mentioned last week that my third wedding anniversary had recently passed. We celebrated with a meal and fantastic champagne cocktails at Stirling’s Bar & Bistro on Ludgate Hill, near St. Paul’s Square. Within the last year, Ludgate Hill has upped its dining game with the addition of Sterling’s and Cucina Rustica. Longtime resident, Locanta, is still ticking but is not even on my radar after a bad dining experience. I use this blog to extol the virtues of dining experiences I would recommend to others, if not actually make reservations for them! Therefore, I will refrain from vituperating Locanta…in this space at least.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about Stirlings! The bistro’s dining area is split on two half-levels, and is very open. A warm and welcoming gentleman with a French accent served us our champagne and strawberry cocktails then showed us to our table. I presumed he was the manager. I think it was the French accent which helped form that assumption.The service was well-paced, and the manner of our female server was consistently helpful throughout. Keep in mind that the place wasn’t heaving when we went, so I have no idea how pacey the service is when things get really busy. On to the food!

First, please forgive the quality of the photos. They are not the porno-rific quality that you have come to expect from this blog, as I left my Panasonic at home and was forced to whip out the HTC Desire. To be honest, I didn’t expect the Stirlings experience to make it to my Food Porn series. Ouch for my expectations, right?! After my smoked salmon croque monsieur with a shot of white onion soup (first photo) was placed before me, I knew I would be annoying G all night by taking photos and voice-recording my impressions of the food. The portion-size and presentation of the starters are very French: petite et precise. Maybe that’s the fat American in me, but I like too much of a good thing. The white onion soup was faultless, devoid of an abundance of garlic. I could have eaten at least two more wedges of the smoked salmon croque monsieur because it was so divine. You are probably thinking: gee, smoked salmon, cheese and bread? It doesn’t take much to please you does it?! Ahhh, you would be correct. I care about ingredients, but I care more about skillful use of simple ingredients and this dish had that in droves. G decided on the caramelized figs, goat’s cheese and toast points for her starter and she was not disappointed (neither was I). The poor woman had gone most of her life without ever eating a fresh fig. She now knows that she was missing out.

The head chef at Stirlings, Richard Alexander, has had an illustrious career cooking for the likes of Gwen Steffani and Guy Ritchie. His classic dishes are unpretentious in presentation and have panache where it counts: in the mouth. Nothing beats the feel and taste of beef for me. I used to be a pescatarian for many years, but soon stopped hating on other animals and became an equal opportunity carnivore. For my main, I had the grilled rib-eye with herb butter and triple cooked chips. TRIPLE! To be fair, when my eyes saw that on the menu, the decision was made. They were exceptionally satisfying: chunky in shape; crisp, non-greasy on the outside; and buttery smooth on the inside. Yes, I know they’re chips, but they are not just any chips. You won’t be disappointed. Oh, the rib-eye was nice too :). G had slow cooked lamb with seasonal vegetables. It was done very well, but nothing to write home about.

For pudding, G had the rhubarb and ginger trifle. I love rhubarb in anything, but can only cope with ginger sparingly in sweet dishes (love, love, love it in savoury foods). Some trifles tend to be top heavy with loads of cream, and Stirlings’ trifle narrowly escaped that category. I had never had a steamed sponge pudding so I opted for the lemon one. It came with a small pot of double cream and raspberries. The sponge was light in texture and zingy from the lemon flavour, which the double cream helped to temper. Tasty and satisfying without feeling gluttonous after two previous courses. G loved her dessert while I liked mine.

All in all, I would certainly recommend Stirlings. The classic contemporary cuisine and relaxed, modern environment will send me back to Sterlings in the future. It’s a great place for date nights or simply hanging with friends. And for goodness sake, go get some of those triple cooked chips already!

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