The Legendary Bleeding Heart Restaurant in London

The Legendary Bleeding Heart Restaurant in London

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day which like many married couples my husband and I will ignore. If you are in London, however, and feeling loved up, I have got a gem of a romantic restaurant for you.

bleeding heart yard sign

image credit: notcub

The Bleeding Heart Restaurants

The Bleeding Heart Restaurants are a group of restaurants set in Bleeding Heart Yard in Clerkenwell.  There is a tavern, a bistro, a restaurant and private dining.  My husband and I tend to go either to the bistro or the restaurant.  We have had many meals at the Bleeding Heart because we used to live around the corner.  In fact, I met my future in-laws for the first time over dinner at Bleeding Heart.  My heart at the time wasn’t bleeding so much as panicking.

bleeding heart restaurant

Image credit: Martyn Jenkins

It’s got all the ingredients for a perfect romantic evening:  French (check), off the beaten path (check), great food and wine (check), great name (check), cobblestone courtyard (check) and an associated romantic legend (check).

As you would expect from a French restaurant, the steak with béarnaise sauce is superb.  Actually, I can’t remember having anything else in all the times I’ve been there!  Why mess with a good thing?

steak frites

Image credit: Ewan Munro

The Bleeding Heart Tavern is open for breakfast and licensed from 7 A.M. to serve liquor. They serve the usual continental fare (croissants) but also a full English breakfast (bacon, sausage, eggs, toast and grilled tomatoes).  You can wash all that grease down with a glass of champagne.

The Bleeding Heart Legends

According to legend, in Elizabethan times, Lady Elizabeth Hatton was a young, society beauty who was famous for throwing great balls.  She was the widowed daughter-in-law of a merchant and so very wealthy and eligible.  She was hosting her Winter ball at her mansion in Bleeding Heart Yard in 1662 when a dark, handsome man swept into her ballroom.  No one knew who the handsome stranger was but they all thought he was a foreigner (of course!).  The stranger danced with her and twirled her straight out of the door. The next morning, Lady Elizabeth’s body parts were found strewn in the yard with her bleeding heart still pumping blood.  The locals surmised that the dashing stranger was the devil.

Charles Dickens had a slightly less gory legend attributed to the place.  In Dickens’ version, a father locked up his daughter in the attic for refusing to ditch her one true love.  The bleeding heart presumably in this story is just a metaphor.

heart dessert

Image credit: Bleeding Heart

Isn’t this dessert beautiful?  Complete with bleeding heart shaped strawberries.

Which bleeding heart legend do you prefer?  I must be macabre because I quite like the version with the beating heart pumping blood in the yard.  It reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart.