Walking down Hatton Garden on a dark, October evening is like appearing in your very own episode of the X files. It's a ghost town: cardboard tumbleweed blowing up and down the pavements of the eerily deserted streets, vacant shop windows, stripped of even the price tags, and one crazed person being inexpertly cared for in the community , leaping out of a doorway to give us his views on my mother's lack of moral fibre.
When at last we found the dim, rather forbidding and as my tall, husky friend Andy said: 'well-dodgy' entrance to Bleeding Heart Lane it was a relief. Even better to find the Bleeding Heart Bistro cosy, warm and bustling with life, albeit mostly slightly tipsy, respectable solicitor type-life. The customers were all fags, mobile phones and cuff links, and with all those black suits - only the glow from their red faces would have saved us in the event of a power cut. However, at least they kept their opinions on my mother's character to themselves.
It wasn't until we sat down that I realised the person who had greeted us warmly at the door and shown us to our seat was in fact, just another paying customer, and not a member of staff. What a nice woman - especially since the hard working waiters were so frantically busy that they barely had time to serve us. We waited ages to order - giving us enough time to watch the adulterous couple next to us smoke their way through half a pack of cigarettes - but passive smoking does have limits as a spectator sport.
The menu is a pleasant variation of the usual bistro fare - a lot of fish and sea-food, but with good old standards like omelette or steak and chips for the purists. I had grilled goats cheese with a polenta and parsley crust (£5.45) to start and Andy had asparagus with a citrus hollandaise, (£5.95) which arrived uncharacteristically quickly, still bearing that fridge fresh bloom.
The polenta crust was disappointingly bland - just a soggy rind by another name - and although the chevre may have been grilled - its sun-tan had definitely worn off. Andy's asparagus was overcooked, slightly clammy and the mayonnaise plain and dull.
To follow - another long wait - during which I broke my vow of abstinence and decided to have a glass of wine. The Bistro boasts 60 wines under £15 as well as an extensive wine cellar but I had to virtually ambush the waiter twice in order the get a single glass of house white. For the next course I chose another starter - a delicious sounding terrine of roasted peppers, aubergines and courgettes with pesto dressing(£4.95). Andy had the ubiquitous salmon and haddock fish cake (£7.95) without which no menu seems to be complete.
The terrine was once again too cold, the peppers too al-dente and the whole dish virtually tasteless. Andy's fish cake however was fat, scrumptious and big enough to satisfy both of us, which was just as well as I ate most of it.
We shared a pudding. A pistachio brulee. Overpriced at £3.95 it tasted sweet and artificial - like something from the Body Shop that you apply directly to your thighs rather than diverting it through your abdomen.
The whole meal with water and two glasses of wine but without coffee was overpriced at just under £50 and frankly not great. However it's worth a trip through the twilight zone just for the atmosphere. It's noisy, lively and entertaining - if a bit too full of women fluffing their hair while listening to men talking about the size of their briefs. You wonder if they don't all have homes to go to, but I expect they do. Just not the same ones.