With a super simple menu and clear concept, Swiss Butter brings a bit of Beirut, Riyadh and Dubai to Holborn
So Swiss Butter isn’t from Switzerland? The name apparently comes from the 33-ingredient secret sauce that was created by a Lebanese chef in 2015. I wonder if perhaps the Swiss bit has anything to do with the fact that the Swiss Montbeliarde cows, whose milk makes Comte cheese, graze on fields full of wild flowers and herbs. Could that milk also be playing a role here as the butter?
Anyway, let’s look around. This part of London is really rather unique, just five minutes away from Tottenham Court Road tube, it more resembles outer London with its grubby shops and a general sense of sleazy abandonment. And yet the British Museum is here, along with the grand Georgian squares of Bloomsbury. It’s an area where Bohemian ideas were once hothoused, now it’s more about fried chicken.
The decor inside Swiss Butter is similar to many independent brewers’ tap rooms with those Hackney vibes. You’ve got your exposed brick and pipework plus functional quasi industrial tables and chairs in wood and steel. It’s airy and open and the kitchen sits in the centre inside a tin ‘shack’.
The kitchen can be this minimalist because the food is simple with all mains priced at £19 whether you choose beef fillet, salmon or chicken breast. And a pint of beer is £5, which is a real bargain in London today, wine by carafe and bottle plus soft drinks are also available, of course.
So for our lunch we choose both beef and chicken, I would have liked salmon but I was having that for dinner later. The platters arrive and it’s impressive, the crispy mass-market Maccy D style fries are piled high and with the excess salt that I find irresistible if unhealthy (there’s a baked potato option, if you prefer), a forest of dressed salad leaves and rather bizarrely some slices of baguette, plus a bowl of chilli flakes for added seasoning.
And then there’s the meat, pre-sliced in an iron skillet and surrounded by that sauce, which I am dead keen to try. So I use a bit of baguette to soak up a serious taster and find it’s not what I expected at all, it’s not overly rich or buttery but instead has complex flavours and a certain pleasant sourness with black pepper overtones. It’s basically rather tasty and reminds me in a good way of Le Relais de Venise with its steak-frites and house sauce.
The steak is cooked medium rare as requested and is a decent bit of meat considering, and a good size too. Shaking off some of the sauce lets it speak for itself and it has plenty good to say.
Wingman has the chicken, which is the same deal, but with chicken. No complaints there either, if you like chicken, although we both felt the dishes and the chips cooled down a bit too quickly.
Dessert choice is simple too – chocolate fondant or pain perdu. We reckon we can just about manage to try both and are glad we do, these are seriously good desserts also served in hot metal skillets.
The fondant is glorious, melted chocolate flowing like delicious lava around the ice cream, and the pain perdu is lighter than it looks, the caramel sauce impossible not to go mad over. I would pop in late night just to eat that dessert.
It’s hard to know quite what the target market is for Swiss Butter overall, although when we went it was mostly full of Middle Eastern people, with some ladies eating in burqas. It’s a fast-ish food concept that doesn’t cost the earth, so is probably going to be popular with a younger diner who doesn’t like fuss or being confused. You do have to eat with cutlery though, which won’t please every young person
Apparently they hope to open a hundred more outlets in the coming years and I don’t see any reason why not. I wonder if they’ll open any in Switzerland though?
114-118 Southampton Row, Holborn, London