A party of four, we arrived early, knowing how packed Freud can get later in the evening. Deciding to eat at seven o'clock on a Monday night during the university vacation, however, proved to be something of an overcompensation. Except for a few late-afternoon coffee drinkers on the small terrace outside, the place was deserted. Not that this detracted from the atmosphere, but rather gave us an opportunity to appreciate our surroundings. The Neo-classical former church of St Paul with its stained-glass windows and cavernous dimensions forms an atmospheric backdrop to an evening out, and the sometimes remarkable but always enthusiastic artworks haphazardly festooning the walls provide additional eye candy. The stained walls and building-work-in-progress look of the balcony end of the place add to the impression that you could be visiting some kind of poshed-up artists' squat on the continent - the very essence of shabby-chic.
The starters, generous and unpretentious, left little to be desired. We shared garlic bread/bruschetta, a plate of houmous, olives, salad and fresh bread, and an enormous plate of spicy nachos with fresh guacamole, salsa, soured cream and cheese. Prices of these delicious inflated bar snacks were very reasonable, ranging between £3.50 and £5. The pizzas, chosen from a good selection and attractively priced at around £6 each, were on the bland side - the calzones rather too doughy, the pepperoni picante slightly overdone - and the halloumi cheese salad platter was rather too much like an expanded starter to be worth its £6.95. (Admittedly the huge size of the actual starters and the heat of the day might have dented our appetites, and thus our appreciation, by that point.) The service was friendly, though a little too relaxed; our waitress, although otherwise very helpful, was not sure of the names of cocktails (perhaps unsurprisingly give the extent of the menu) and of which ingredients/dishes were unavailable, and there was a long wait between ordering and receiving our pre-diner drinks. The cocktails themselves, at around the £4 or £5 mark, were delicious however, though there was some discussion as to whether they'd diminished in strength over the years (though thinking back to some of the nights I spent there as a student, this probably wouldn't be a bad thing).
As we left at nearly nine o'clock, the first of the evening's clientele were starting to arrive and the bar was beginning to get busy. You can wait a long time for a drink in Freud when it gets really full, but it's usually worth it, and the place itself is justly popular. This may not be the place to go for a romantic dinner for two or a memorable gastronomic experience, but for a quiet lunch or a less than quiet evening with friends, in beautiful and unusual surroundings, you won't go far wrong.