The Heron building opposite the Barbican in the City of London has a plethora of dining options available for those visiting the multi-arts and conference venue just across the street, and one of the latest additions is Italian express restaurant Caterina 55.
Admittedly, when we envisioned a restaurant it wasn't the noisy and lacking-in-ambience first impression we got of this eatery, which in interior resembled a mash-up between a high street takeaway lunch café and a famous fast food joint, but we were ready to let the home-made and fresh food speak for itself, without the fuss of an inspired design - or a menu on the tables for that matter.
The menu consists of a range of classic Italian pasta dishes alongside soups and burgers, and since we were in the mood for a good piece of meat both myself and my guest ordered the very tempting sounding Burger Di Manzo Organico Al Pesto. We were served a proper burger consistent of an organic beef pattie (or two in our case, as we ordered the double burger, though the meat seemed to be the only part of the dish doubled up upon), crisp lettuce leaves, slices of tomato, smoked scamorza cheese and homemade pesto in a fluffy bun.
It was a beautifully cooked and juicy burger and I particularly loved the texture of the smoked cheese. Though besides the addition of pesto it wasn't particularly Italian or different from other burger places I've been to, and for a dinner dish it was perhaps a bit on the small side. We intended to order sides as well to make it a proper meal, but the only one on the menu was chickpea fries and by the time we visited mid-afternoon they had already run out for the day. This was a real shame as it was a true stand-out on the menu and we would've loved to have given them a try.
For dessert we were offered tiramisu in a pre-filled plastic cup. This didn't make it look particularly interesting or appetising, but my guest was wow-ed by the sweet treat. She even went so far as to say that it was much better than tiramisus she has had in high-end restaurants. As I don't drink (or eat in this case) anything with coffee in it, I cannot comment on the dessert myself but I can say that she can be a harsh critic so this must have truly been something special.
I swapped my tiramisu for the only other dessert that was available in the chilled area (I sadly didn't spot any of the cakes listed on their online menu), which was a panna cotta topped with a gorgeous strawberry jam. I too absolutely loved my dessert and ate it in very small bites to try to savour it a little while longer (I was even tempted to pick up another cup for the road, but I resisted).
While we initially weren't impressed by the restaurant's ambiance or the presentation of the dishes, which all made this seem more fast-food chain rather than freshly-made feast, the mouth-watering desserts were a surprising revelation and left us feeling very satisfied.
Caterina 55, The Heron, 5 Moor Lane, London EC2Y 9AP.