The Royal Exchange is a remarkable building inside and out, but Cara bets you haven’t been to its fairly discrete side door leading down to The Libertine.

The Libertine is easy to miss, despite of the impressive décor right at the entrance plus a doorman. I’ve walked past that very street many times having no clue of its existence until last week.

As you enter it’s a very fine dine feel, you’re first greeted by that doorman, then a host offering to take away the coats before walking you to the tables.

It’s a historic vaulted ceiling downstairs with pretty, busy, bar, we visited on a Thursday at 6:30 and the bar was vibing mostly with local City workers.

Although its front décor suggested a little mystery and gentleman’s club, the gender of the attendees was about 50/50.

You have to walk half way through the bar before entering the second room, or hall I should say, as it’s quite spacious. This is the dining room, featuring similar exposed grey brick walls, chess floor tiles and dark timber and white marble accents.

We were one of the first to arrive, but soon the room filled up.

The menu is best described as brasserie with a variety of steaks, seafood such as king and prawn lobster roll, fish pie and daily specials like lamb cutlets and fish of the day.

Burgers seemed extremely popular and looked juicy with a good bronze shine on the brioche buns. Sitting by the bar entrance we observed a regular flow of burger-loaded trays headed to the bar area.

Our starters however, were a little lighter. Seared scallops with seaweed and garlic butter and parmesan crumb. A stunning dish with meaty well sized scallops cooked just right. The toppings were well paired, not overpowering to allow the sweetness of scallops to bloom.

While my guest had a meat based starter – beef carpacio with truffled pine nut dressing, sun dried tomato puree and parmesan shavings.

While I’m a fan of beef, especially in a medium rare steak form with a fatty rim, carpaccio hasnever appealed to me, they just seem too lean and well…raw.

Having said that the truffle aroma was too tempting so I have a bite before my guest finishes the plate. It’s very decent with melting in the mouth tender meat and the sweetness and acidity of the tomato puree. Roasted pine nuts add a lovely crunch.

We finish our starters in no time and wait for mains while studying the drinks list. They’re all well priced and with a good range of wines from around the globe. In fact for the City it doesn’t break the bank at all.

Cocktails around £11, starters under £20 and desserts under £10, quality dishes and portions, no wonder it’s packed, sadly that did have a slight toll on the time of arrival for our mains. 

A slight delay but nothing a good steak can’t fix, which is exactly that on my plate. A juicy cut of rib-eye with a buttery plump rim, perhaps a little too grilled on the sides but still medium rare inside.

My guest’s main is lamb cutlets with wine jus, very tender meat of three cutlets, all in all a great dish with one minor detail missing – potato dauphinoise, which as we found out was left behind due to my guest’s dislike of onions.

So we share French fries instead, it’s a sizeable potion, The Libertine offers both French and thick cut to suit all tastes, for us it’s skin on fries, thin cut is always favoured.

Despite the filling dishes we have just enough space for something sweet. A posset for me, it’s always my preferred choice if there is one on the menu.

Light and lemony with a subtle sweetness, this one is also topped with strawberry jelly and crunchy pistachios. My indecisive plus one goes for the sharing dessert plate, which is surprisingly manageable for one, as long as you have a sweet tooth.

I do help a bit of course as there is still plenty to go around – almond rich macarons, chocolate truffles, fudge brownie bites and petit pecan treacle tarts.

The only dessert that’s priced at £15, but it’s normally designed to be shared between two, so still working out at £7 and a half each.

We leave happy and with an insistent recommendation of the Sunday Roast by the manager, apparently it’s a must try. After the diner like ours we don’t object, something tells me we’ll be back there very soon, highly possible it’ll be a Sunday.

The Libertine Restaurant & Bar, 1 Royal Exchange, London EC3V 3LL