Wednesday 11 November 2015

Bellita - Bristol

So, my favourite Bristol restaurant, Bell’s Diner has spawned an offshoot (A boisterous little sister, in their own words) Bellita. Located on the site of the highly regarded Flinty Red; which recently ascended to restaurant Valhalla. It’s always sad when a respected restaurant closes its doors, but these things happen and change is apparently good. So that’s enough mourning. Onwards and upwards. The King is dead, long live the Queen! And all that.

I’m extremely pleased to report that after three visits (just to be sure) it appears that Bellita has hit the ground running and is living up to the ‘enfant terrible’ of Bell’s tag; seemingly rather effortlessly. A fact that leaves me with the total non-dilemma of living smack-bang equidistant between my favourite restaurant (Bell’s) and its sibling, Bellita; Yes, I am the proverbial dog with two dicks.

The food at Bell’s Diner has always been superb and it’s their sous chef; Joe Harvey under Head Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel who has made the leap and is running the kitchen at Bellita; bringing a few favourites off their menu along, as well as a whole load of new dishes encompassing the same Spanish, North African, Mediterranean vibe that has made Bell’s Diner so consistently interesting.

As at Bell’s, Kate Hawking’s has pulled together a cracking, tight little wine list backed up by an interesting selection of shims (aperitifs) shrubs (fruit cordials made with fruit, sugar and vinegar) and shandies (ginger or raspberry) along with classic Negroni’s and Campari/Aperol Spritz.

I should mention the restaurant interior, because despite the food at Flinty Red being superb, I was never really taken with the actual room. It had something of a 1980’s wine bar feel about it and just seemed a bit Spartan and characterless. The new owners have addressed this somewhat, the colour scheme being subtly warmer. The large, ugly ceiling air-con panels have gone. There’s also some high tables and stools to perch on, with seating running down one side of the room. It’s definitely an improvement.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been a few times now and the potato and parmesan fritters are f*cking immense. Yeah, I do have a thing for potatoes…and cheese (which right minded person doesn’t?) but bloody hell, tres oui to the upmost. I’ll just say three words; hot, crisp, oozing. My work here is done.

The Jamon Iberico croqueta are similarly immense, but my ingrained; greedy bastardo, economy head reckons three spud and cheese fritters for £3, trumps Jamon Iberico croqueta at £2 each EVERY TIME! But then saying that, it’s all so reasonable; live a little and get some of those too.
The gem salad with Caesar dressing is definitely worth ordering, to balance out all the frigging potatoes that you’re gonna have to eat. Because It’s a pomme de terre  bonanza at Bellita and I couldn’t be more happy. Did I mention how much I frigging love potatoes?
Fried potatoes with aioli and mojo verde (I had to ask what mojo verde was, turns out it’s a mint-chilli version of salsa verde) How good does that sound. The spuds are so crispy and bloody delicious. So yeah!
But then there’s fried potatoes with chicken stock and parsley and these are even better. The same crisp, fluffy potatoes as before but paddling around in a pool of intense chicken stock, it’s like some kind of messed up potato package holiday in that bowl, until you ruin the potato party, playing the part of a ravenous spud eating Godzilla type monster, reaching in and plucking one before devouring it an orgy or violence.

Errrr….is it just me who thinks like this?

Moving swiftly on….
Burnt aubergine. Pepper and onion salad with pomegranates and chilli. Very Ottolenghi’ish and a cracking little side order.
Rice, Feta and Saffron Filo parcel with pumpkin borani and pistachios. This was a stunning plate of food. I ate these with my mate Elly, and she was absolutely ecstatic; making all sorts of alarming growling noises from across the other side of the table. It’s such a nicely balanced dish, sweet pumpkin, sour yoghurt, salty feta, crisp filo and creamy borani. These are a definite must order. In fact, maybe order two rounds of these.
Sam from Bell’s Diner has had a similar dish to this on the menu from way back when he was working at Manna; slow cooked trout, tzatziki and pickled cucumber. Beautiful, soft and translucent fish, slightly sweet, when eaten with the creamy yoghurt and sharpness of the cucumber it’s a superb plate of food.
I wasn’t such a fan of the Cornish clams cooked in garlic butter with leeks and Pernod. It looked cracking and I loved the bowl it was served in, but I thought the alcohol whack from the Pernod was a bit on the aggressive side and slightly overpowering.
Chorizo, morcilla and butifarra with white beans, cooked with smoked ham hock and aioli is a banging plate of food, a small bowl of everything meaty and there’s sod all wrong with that. Definitely one for eating alongside the fried potatoes and mopping up with some bread.
After this lot, I was stuffed silly, but still managed to pitch in and help demolish a rather superb chocolate torte with salted caramel sauce and mascarpone.  

It’s obvious that the team at Bell’s Diner have got another huge success on their hands. The food is happily, very similar in terms of quality and style to what you’d find on the menu at Bellita’s older, more established sibling but there’s a slightly different vibe. It’s more informal and more about sticking your head in and propping up the bar with a few small plates rather than booking and sitting down to full on meals. Although you can definitely do that as well, I’m looking forward to ordering the Charcoal-grilled 8 year old Galician beef sirloin with chicken stock potatoes, for two; at some point. 

So, in conclusion I’ve got a cracking little offshoot of my favourite Bristol restaurant just a 5 minute walk from my flat and Bristol has another superb restaurant to add to the existing handful of true belters. Winner-winner chicken stock fried potato dinner. 

34 Cotham Hill

Telephone – 0117 923 8755

Monday 9 March 2015

Recipe - Spiced root veg with kale and yoghurt

Almost every single day of my life is spent surrounded by meat. My day job is managing a BBQ 'Shack' for Grillstock, which if you don't know, is a veritable charnel house of dead farm animals that are hickory smoked at low temperatures every single night until, come sunrise, the meat is so tender, you can just pull the bones straight out of the cooked meat with no effort at all. Yeah, it is as frigging good as it sounds.

As you can imagine, in the two years or so I've managed the place, I've eaten a hell of a lot of meat, perhaps too much (Although I remain an unrepentant beef brisket fiend) So its perhaps unsurprising that when I'm cooking at home, I often eat vegetarian.

Yes. What the actual f*ck. I really did just say that.

This Nigel Slater recipe was published in The Observer Magazine. A few weeks ago and I loved its simplicity, cheapness and the fact it was so open to individual interpretation. 

Swede, turnip, potatoes, parsnips or a combination all work. Don't have spinach, use kale or chard instead. Its also pretty damn healthy I imagine. Most importantly its absolutely bloody delicious. 
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! ...or...errr...not, in this instance.

Anyway..., here's the recipe...

Spiced root veg with kale and yoghurt

Serves 2

You'll need:-

1 kg Swede, Turnips, Potatoes, Parsnips (or a combination of any of them, I made it with just swede and it was banging.) Peeled and cut into large pieces

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
knob of butter
Splash of oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
200g of spinach, kale or chard washed
Maldon salt
Greek yoghurt
Fresh coriander

Cook your chosen root vegetables in salted boiling water, you're looking at around 15 mins for large chunks, stick a knife in to see if its cooked. Drain and put to one side.

In a shallow pan, fry the onion in a little butter and oil until soft, then add the turmeric, garam masala and cumin seeds. Stir and cook off on a moderate heat for a couple of minutes.

Put a large saucepan on the heat, and add the wet spinach, kale or chard and a pinch of Maldon salt. Let it steam until wilted for around 3 mins for spinach, a few minutes longer for kale or chard. Drain and press the water from it.

Add your root veg to the frying onions and continue cooking until they are lightly golden and are coated in some of the spices. Season and fold in the spinach, kale or chard. 

Tip the lot it into bowls. Artfully blob with Greek yoghurt and a few coriander leaves. Season again if it needs it. Job-Jobbed.

Monday 16 February 2015

Recipe - Thyme Roasted Onions, Kale, Mozzarella, Chilli & Lemon

Hello lovely readers.

First a bombshell fact that potentially might blow your mungus minds, so brace yourselves.
Would you believe I’ve been writing this blog for six years, on and off?
Six whole f*cking years! Hahahaha that’s longer than most of my relationships. 

Yeah, OK, I know. Before you start jeering and pointing accusing hands, angrily remonstrating that 2014 could barely be considered a vintage year with regards to this blog and ‘how very dare I talk about six whole years of writing’. (Damn, you people are so passionate). I’ll hold my hands up in a non-confrontational manner (Because we really don’t want to fight about this). And grudgingly admit it was an absolute shitter with regards to actually producing posts, but to be fair that’s because my whole year was literally an absolute shitter in a personal sense. But, hey the less said about that, the better. 

Anyway that was then, this is now. What can I say, except here I am back, still the same beautiful, intelligent, gifted individual I always was. Modest, caring and now….frigging sharing via the medium of this very blog!
Look, let’s just hug, make up and perhaps learn to love me once again.

Ok so now all that unpleasantness is out of the way, let’s talk onions, people.

I got the idea for this from Anthony Demetre, Head Chef of Arbutus. In his excellent book ‘Today’s Special’ (Buy it if you don’t have it, it’s superb) He extolls the virtues of simply roasted onions. So I pinched that bit, slung some other stuff into the mix and came up with this dinner. It’s bloody lovely and pretty damn cheap.    

Thyme Roasted Onions, Kale, Mozzarella, Chilli & Lemon

Serves 4

You’ll need – 

For the onions-
Knob of butter
Splash of olive oil
12 Onions, skins on
Some thyme sprigs
Maldon Salt and Pepper

You’ll also Need-

Bread, blitzed into rough crumbs
Splash of olive oil
A bag of Kale
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
Knob of butter
A ball of mozzarella, torn into rough pieces
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped.
1 Red Chilli, finely chopped.
Maldon Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C

Cut the onions in half, through the root, leaving the skin on.
Heat the butter with the olive oil in a roasting tin or saute pan on the hob, and colour the onions in it, skin side up. 
Season with salt and pepper, scatter with the thyme and bake in the oven until soft. 30-40 mins.

Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan with a splash of olive oil and fry off your breadcrumbs until golden and crisp. Season and put to one side.

When the onions are just about done, wash your kale and leave to drain in a colander.
Heat the knob of butter in a large frying pan or wok, and throw in the kale, finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper.
Toss over a high heat for a few minutes until it starts to wilt. Take it off the heat.

Take the skin off your onions (it should just pull off easily) drizzle with a little olive oil and season.

Arrange your roasted onions in the centre of the plate, surrounded by the sautéed kale. Drape your artfully ripped mozzarella over the kale, sprinkled with chilli and lemon zest. Finally dust the whole thing with fried breadcrumbs for a bit of texture, and that’s that. Jobs a good ‘un.

If you don’t fancy mozzarella, I reckon this would be nice with feta or ewes curd instead.    

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Rochelle Canteen - London

Yeah I know.
We’ve been here before and yes, I promised that I’d be around a lot more than I have. I tried, I really did, but I fucked up. I could offer you excuses, I could swear that things will be different this time and you might believe me, but who are we kidding? I might be around, I might not. I just don’t know.  I just can’t stay away though…

So here I am.

Like an illicit lover. I’ve sneaked back in to your life. Made love to you in the most erotic literary fashion by way of this Rochelle Canteen review and disappeared once more in to the grey, early morning light, leaving you sleeping soundly with a wistful smile and tousled hair, a rose on your pillow and a used condom lurking under the duvet, no doubt stuck to your leg.  

It’s me!

Ok. Enough of that. Rochelle Canteen….

As you are probably aware, I’m a massive fan of all things St John and Fergus Henderson. I love the British’ness of it, the simple, seasonal, ingredient led menus, the spartan plating and the near fanatical obsession with using dismembered animal bits and bobs that are rarely seen on other restaurant menus. I even, God help me, have learned to like the odd cheeky Fernet Branca, Mr Henderson’s favourite booze, famously always on the speed rail behind the bar at St John.

Where am I going with this? Well, Rochelle Canteen is part of the St John family, literally in fact. It’s owned and run by Margot Henderson, Fergus’s wife and her business partner, Melanie Arnold. It’s just behind Shoreditch High Street, on Arnold Circus in an old Victorian School, and this is where I found myself, in the pissing of rain last Monday lunchtime.

So far, so good. Except it wasn’t.
Considering that I knew exactly where Rochelle Canteen is located, you’d think access would be just a mere formality. Well, it would be if you could find the correct door with the intercom button labelled ‘Rochelle Canteen’. I wandered around in a torrential downpour for ten minutes, circling the entire school wall before finally happening upon the entrance.  To save you suffering the same rain soaked indignity and frustration, I have thoughtfully included pictures of the doorway in question and the intercom button where finger pressure is required. Consider yourself forewarned.
Anyway, I finally made it into the courtyard and wandered across to the small, glass walled outbuilding that houses the canteen and slid open the door.

Inside, as you’d expect it’s very white, very bare looking and judging by the lunchtime crowd, very Shoreditch, which is hardly surprising given the location. There’s a counter with a well-equipped open kitchen to the left and some communal seating in a dining area.

I normally research my restaurant eating and drinking options meticulously before I even book, but this time I had somehow dropped a massive bollock. I was absolutely flabbergasted when the server told me Rochelle Canteen doesn’t sell alcohol. It turns out it’s BYO with £5 corkage. Taking a brief moment to repeatedly slap my own forehead violently, interspersed with shouting “stupid!” “STUPID!” I resigned myself to soft drinks and tap water. Yeah. Bastard.

Recovering my cool, I scanned the menu and was struck by two thoughts.

1) It’s not frigging cheap
2) I want to order everything.

This is bad news. The worst possible combination. A menu perfect storm ensuring that I will probably leave devoid of any dignity, crawling towards the exit, uncomfortably full and being extremely vocal in my agonised groaning. At the same time, I’ll certainly be so utterly skint I’ll have to resort to selling my beautiful, taut, muscular young body to accumulate the train fare home.

Damn you Rochelle Canteen! *fist shake*
Taking into account that it was cold, grey and damp outside, conditions mirrored by me on a personal level after wandering around trying to find the entrance, I ordered duck broth with “Frittaten” (A herb pancake cut into ribbons and draped artfully in the soup). They’d run out of Duck, but they had chicken. Even better. I could think of nothing more comforting to someone in my bedraggled condition. Simple clean flavours, steaming hot and absolutely delicious. Like the peasant I am, I quickly progressed from mannered spoonful’s to dunking huge chunks of sourdough bread slathered with butter into the broth and from there into my gob and felt better and better with every slurp and bite.
When I said ‘it’s not frigging cheap’ Chicken and leek pie, I’m looking at you. 
Maybe I am really a peasant, maybe I no longer have any idea how much things cost in London, now that I live in Bristol and only return intermittently, but £16.50 for a pie, for one, with no other accompaniments at all seems, pardon my Francais; a bit fucking steep. 
To make matters somehow worse, I can’t deny it was absolutely bloody gorgeous. Beautiful pastry, albeit a bit rustic looking, filled solid with bits of chicken and leek.
To round things out a bit and also because I’m a notoriously greedy bastard, I complemented my solitary sixteen and a half quid delicious pie with a bowl of roasted new potatoes, carrots and garlic. All nice enough.
Simple things are often the best, typified perfectly by a slice of ginger loaf with vanilla ice-cream and butterscotch sauce. I demolished the lot and smiled broadly between every mouthful.

After gawping and at the bill, I walked back out into a soggy London afternoon, significantly lighter of pocket but happy, full-up and generally pretty pleased with lunch; so I reckon it was worth it then.  

I liked Rochelle Canteen a lot. Yes it’s a bit on the steep side, but there’s a beautiful almost rustic simplicity to the food. It’s like a far less formal version of St John, similar in outlook (unsurprisingly) but much less restaurant and more like eating around a friend’s house who happens to be an amazing cook. There’s no frippery, no fancy plating, just solid cooking with excellent ingredients and sometimes that’s all you want. I found it refreshing and pretty damn comforting. If you can actually find the bloody entrance, you should go.

Rochelle Canteen
Rochelle School
Arnold Circus
E2 7ES

Telephone: 020 7729 5677

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Chicken, Butter Bean and Tarragon Soup

It’s late August but perversely I'm thinking about soup for dinner. It’s been frigging horrible out there lately, it just hasn't stopped pissing down with rain and it’s cold with it. Anyone would think I lived in the UK and not a sun-kissed, palm-fringed Caribbean island *glances out of window and does a double take*. Shit.

Anyway, the legend that is Nigel Slater had a cracking looking soup recipe in The Observer magazine a week or so ago, chicken, butter bean and tarragon, so I gave that a go and in case you didn't see it, I'm going to share it with you.

This recipe ticks a number of boxes for me. Firstly I frigging love chicken soup, always have. Secondly, I also love butter beans, not sure why, I think it’s a textural thing, they feel smooth like a pebble but are soft and mashy when you bite into them, yeah I'm weird. Finally, guess what? I also love the aniseed whack of tarragon, especially with chicken.  It’s like this recipe was made for me.

If that wasn't enough, there’s also a very ‘on trend’ element in the form of chicken crackling garnish. If you haven’t tried it yet, you've got to give it a go. Basically roasted, crispy chicken skin. It’s filthy, but lovely.

A note about chicken thighs – use them often! They’re dirt cheap, the meat actually tastes of something and if you’re shredding it up anyway, what difference does it make what part of the animal it came from. As usual, you should also be using lovely, happy free range chickens and not those grey, anaemic looking, extra value, 5 kilo tubs of sad, assorted chook bits for £3 that are probably a jigsaw puzzle of a butchered tramp.        

Oh and eat this with good crusty bread, slathered in butter if you’re feeling particularly carefree. If you’re in Bristol, Mark’s Bread baguettes are frigging perfect. I love them. Anyway. That recipe….

Chicken Butter Bean and Tarragon Soup

Serves 4

3 large onions
30g butter
A little olive oil
2x 400g tins butter beans
1 litre chicken stock (if you have homemade use it, if not the gel pots will do).
4 large chicken thighs, with skin, on the bone
5-6 sprigs of parsley
6 sprigs tarragon

Peel and roughly chop the onions. Melt the butter in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Throw in the chopped onions and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.

Drain the tins of butter beans and stir them into the onions along with the stock. Bring to the boil.
Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and put to one side for later. Sling the now skinless thighs into the stock then lower the heat and let the whole lot gently simmer for 40 minutes.

While you’re waiting, stretch the chicken skins flat on a foil covered baking tray. Season with salt and pepper. Stick into a low oven (150C) until crisp and golden (Nigel reckons 15-20 mins, but it took a fair bit longer in my oven, more like half hour). When done, set aside on kitchen towel.

Remove the chicken thighs from the soup. Pick all the meat from the bones and tear into large pieces. Chop the tarragon and parsley, then in a small mixing bowl, gently stir it through the chicken with a little salt and pepper until it’s coated in herbs.

Using an electric blender, blitz about half the soup to a creamy puree (Or all of it, if you like your soup non-chunky). Divide between four bowls. Add a heap of herby chicken thigh and a piece of chicken crackling balanced on top. 

Get slurping.

Monday 28 July 2014

Bobby beans with garlic and crème fraiche

Hello beloved readers. 
I'm back!

Now, I could furnish you all with a multitude of excuses of why I haven’t updated the blog for a little while, but you don’t want to hear that load of pathetic old cobblers, you want frigging RESULTS and I understand that, I really do. So here I am, delivering STUFF for you to cast your critical eye over.

Bearing that in mind and without further ado, get your eyeballs around this.

I've kind of been lacking inspiration recently. Don’t get me wrong, I cook all the time. It’s even what I do for a living at my day job, and I'm always eating out in restaurants. Food is pretty much my raison d'être (check me and my posh words out!), but something has just felt like it was missing. It’s hard to define or pin down but I just haven’t felt particularly excited about anything much lately, but that all changed last week.

I happened to pick up a copy of Caroline Conran’s, Sud de France – The food and cooking of Languedoc

This is hard to describe but flicking through I gradually felt the clouds lifting and was somehow instantly rejuvenated in a culinary sense. I'm not entirely sure how or why, I just realised that I wanted to cook all of it and couldn't wait to get started. 

Now I know you’re probably thinking-

‘What a load of bollocks Dan, you probably ate some dodgy prawns or sumfink and the effects happened to wear off as you read that book ’

But it’s true I tell you. I have been INSPIRED.

Seriously, It’s an absolutely fantastic book. Every single recipe is introduced with anecdotes that beautifully sketch out intriguing glimpses of everyday life, eating and cooking in the Languedoc region of France. The recipes themselves are refreshingly exact, to the point and most importantly, they work (a prerequisite of a recipe book you might think, but it’s surprising how many books fall at that particular hurdle).

There are no photos of the food, just the authors own drawings and I love that. You’re free to interpret how the food should look on the plate and you’re forced to use your imagination and work a little bit, which feels somehow very right. It also helps, dare I say it, to make it all feel very reminiscent of Elizabeth David and that is definitely a compliment.

Anyway, it’s a truly lovely book. Buy it

There’s one recipe in particular I absolutely love. It’s really simple, almost ridiculously so, but It just blew me away. French beans with garlic – Haricots verts a l’ail.

I cooked this recipe using bobby beans (an English variant of green beans that are in season, right now) and used Neal’s Yard Dairy’s rather amazing crème fraiche (if you've never tried it, I urge you to give it a go, it’s the best crème fraiche I've ever tasted – if you’re in Bristol, they stock it in Source at St Nicholas Market).
I served it with the Chicken with sherry vinegar and tomato recipe from the same book (also superb). 

Bobby beans with garlic and crème fraiche

Serves 4

You’ll need-
500g Bobby beans, topped and tailed    
150ml Crème Fraiche
1 plump clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt, pepper.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the beans and let them cook for 8 minutes.

- I’d normally cook fine beans for 3 minutes, al dente, but stick with it, the author explains that she thinks the beans don’t develop their flavour if they are eaten too crisp and raw. Based on the results, for this particular recipe, I think I agree.

Meanwhile simmer the garlic in the crème fraiche in a small non-stick pan for about 5 minutes, until the garlic starts to smell fragrant.

Drain the beans thoroughly, toss them in the cream and garlic mixture.
Season with pepper and salt if necessary.

And that’s it. Simple and bloody amazing!
Yeah, I’ll say it again… buy this book.

Friday 30 May 2014

Lyle's - London

Contained within a note on my phone is an ever expanding list of restaurants I want to eat at. The majority of them in London. So every time I’m back in the capital, even if I’m just passing through, I always hit somewhere new for lunch or dinner or sometimes both, often with some grazing in-between. Don’t be shocked. I think it’s been well established over the years what a spectacularly greedy bastard I am.

As I was back in London last week, for the first time in frigging ages. I decided to have lunch at Lyle’s in Shoreditch. Running the kitchen is Chef James Lowe. Formerly of the Young Turks; a trio of chefs, who, after impressing London collaboratively a few years back, have all gone on to rather awesome things. Upstairs at the Ten Bells and The Clove Club to name but two. Seeing as I absolutely bloody love both of these, my expectations were pretty high.

But first, the simple task of actually finding the restaurant. I’m a pretty punctual guy, I arrived in Shoreditch with plenty of time to spare. I was looking hip and feeling rather louche, as befits the general vibe of the area. The map application on my phone was telling me that Lyle’s was just there, but could I bloody see it? Pizza East, yes. Hipster central, Shoreditch House, yeah, restaurant I have a lunch reservation at? No. I walked up and down the street, increasingly confused and flustered, whilst my own wafer thin veneer of hip was seemingly melting away like a badly applied coat of cheap spray tan.

In the end, I walked into a warehouse office space and asked the receptionist if she knew where Lyle’s was. Barely containing the urge to pull an imbecilic ‘Duh’ expression at me, she simply pointed behind me and to the left. I’d walked straight past it.

On time, just and presenting myself at the front desk of Lyle’s, I was again thrown out of kilter by the aloof manner of the girl manning the reservation laptop. I know it’s cool Shoreditch, dahling and it’s the latest shit-hot restaurant and all that, but would it have killed her to crack a smile and try and appear friendly? Surely it’s a prerequisite of meeting and greeting to flash those pearly whites and actually make the customer feel, I don’t know….welcome?

Ignoring the bad start and determined to enjoy my lunch, I was shown to my table and immediately things improved. My waiter was friendly, cheerful, professional and knowledgeable as he talked me through the menu. Aaaaand relax.

The restaurant space itself feels very large, light and airy as you’d expect from a former tea warehouse, it actually reminds me of the industrial type space you initially walk into at St John in Clerkenwell, which strangely brings me onto the food.

James Lowe has previously worked at St John and it shows.  Something of the Fergus Henderson’s influence is seemingly ingrained in every chef who has worked in one of his kitchens. The menu, the ingredients, the plating style, the look of the restaurant, you can just see it and it’s a very good thing. I say this because I ate at new Bristol restaurant, Birch a few days previous to this, and the chef, Sam Leach is formerly of the St John Hotel, his menu, his food, the ingredients that he’s using and even the Spartan look of his restaurant are in some ways similar to Lyle’s, which in turn is somehow reminiscent of St John.   
Given that connection, as you’d expect, the menu at Lyles is very British and extremely seasonal. I wanted to order the whole frigging lot from the selection of small plates, but restrained myself to just two.
Asparagus and walnut mayonnaise, very simple but beautifully done. I absolutely love asparagus and can’t get enough when it’s in season, but I really ordered this because I was intrigued by the pairing with a walnut mayonnaise, something which is entirely new to me. It was delicious and worked really well.
The highlight of my lunch and another early contender for the best thing I’ve put in my mouth all year (snigger), Lamb’s sweetbreads, ramson and lettuce. Beautiful to look at, incredible to eat. This was by far the best plate of sweetbreads I ever eaten, anywhere. They were massive, cooked just right and tasted superb with the wild garlic and lettuce. Truly lovely.
Resisting the urge to order another plate of sweetbreads, I continued stuffing myself with meat, moving onto a full sized plate of food. Saddleback, land cress and anchovy. Very simple and St John’esque in appearance. A beautifully cooked piece of pork, paired unusually with an intense anchovy sauce. It was delicious.
At this point, I should mention the excellent bread and butter seeing as I wolfed down two plates of it and while I’m at it, I should also mention the wine, recommended to me by one of the Lyle’s sommelier’s via Twitter (she wasn’t working the lunch shift), Cotes du Jura ‘La Pierre’, 2011, Les Granges de Quatre Sous. It was totally banging. Superb at £7 a glass.
Finally, dessert. Having eaten a rather nice treacle tart at ‘Birch’ a couple of days before, I decided to forgo that option on the menu (those similarities again) Instead I went for Rhubarb and Custard. Consisting of a cold, whipped custard heaped on top of beautiful rhubarb, lightly poached and a quenelle of rhubarb sorbet. It was cracking.

So, I loved Lyle’s. Ignoring the initial rather brusque greeting, I thought the service fantastic and the food beautiful in it’s simplicity. Similar to the grub at St John, but pimped. The lamb sweetbread dish was one of the best things I've ever eaten and I harbour some disappointment that I didn’t manage to eat my way through the entire menu. All in all, I had a stonking lunch. I’ll definitely be going back for more.

Tea Building
56 Shoreditch High Street
E1 6JJ

Telephone: 0203 011 5911