I’ve never really been for food at a restaurant in and around Shoreditch – we usually just grab something out and about in one of the many food markets or street food pop-ups such as Spitalfields or Brick Lane. This time in town, we decided we would be a bit more civilised with some food and a glass of wine, instead of going 100 miles an hour and eating standing up. We decided on St Leonards Restaurant, that happened to be located just 2 streets away from where we were staying, which must be a first, as everywhere needs 3 changes on the underground of a £15 uber to get there normally. The St Leonards name, comes from the ancient parish church in Shoreditch. The Shoreditch restaurant is a collaboration between well known London Chef’s Andrew Clarke and Jackson Boxer. The selling point for me was that the majority of the foods were cooked over an open wood fire. The instagram images with duck neck filled with foie gras, being basted with a spray of calvados, whilst gently smoked over the ashen surface got me salivating a little.
The was an air of Nordic charm about the decor at St Leonards, that took me back to a recent trip to Copenhagen. Polished concrete and the open kitchen segments in full view. A clash of fire and ice – the open fire, fuelled by logs to blacken both meat and seasonal vegetables, perched right next to the fresh fish and shellfish that feature heavily on the menu. We booked in for 6.45pm and was expecting it to be at least half full in occupancy by then, however there were only two tables taken up by those favouring the drinks menu as opposed to the food. We were the first ones to take a seat in the dinning half of the restaurant. The busy looking fireplace lined-up with epic meaty portions, hooked on metal chains, glistening over orange embers on their instagram was swapped for an empty, searingly hot cast iron grate, waiting to be fed.
With the images I’d seen mainly of the meat being cooked over the wood, I was expecting a larger offering for it’s carnivorous patrons. But in fact, the meat was relegated to third place behind the seafood and vegetable offerings. I wouldn’t say vegetarian as fat, and animal fat for that matter takes on a helping hand in transforming a seemingly average vegetable to the heights of crowning dish on the menu. From having breakfast at around 8am and not booking the restaurant till 6.45pm, we had to have something to tie us over mid afternoon in Hackney, whilst doing the rounds. Also to take the edge off an hours worth of spirit sampling at a distillery. We therefore weren’t overly ravished. Well one of us, at least. With this we opted to go for a few smaller dishes, as I couldn’t really justify a 1kg 70 day matured sirloin for around £90, when I wanted to try a few other flavours on the menu. I’d not had oysters for about 15 years, until a recent trip to Anglesey, where we had them twice in one day.
Oysters have a rich history in London and have been enjoyed by all classes in society for hundreds of years. They could be bought from street traders, enjoyed with a pint or be found on the menu at upper class dining parties and restaurants. After my recent re-acquaintance with the slimy delicacy, we thought we’d start with some at St Leonards too. I went for oyster dressed with pork fat in the form of crispy crackling to add texture to a the normal slippery mouthful, along with gooseberry and cumin. Llio went with oyster dressed with blackcurrant. leek and marigold and priced at £4.5 and £4 respectively.
Leek’s must be in season as we went for a leek kimchi for the table and also a burnt leek, almont cream, summer truffle and chive. The burnt leek reminding me of my calcott party for my birthday last year, courtesy of Cardiff’s Asador 44. The bright red, peppery romesco swapped for a more creamy almond number instead and priced at £9. Burrata would have been top of the list had I not demolished a whole one just three hours earlier. Instead we went down the raw seafood route. Raw mackerel, soy butter and dandelion came first at £8, followed by raw sea bream, kiwi, fermented beetroot and nasturtium flower at £8 also.
I love soy and I love butter. Also a fan of the salty umami combo of miso butter, but I found this soy butter a bit too salty for my liking. The mackerel was soft, fresh and delicate though. The sea bream, looked like an artwork on the plate. A bright green sea of shallow liquid, dotted with parcels of white bream and kiwi. The flowers just there for visuals as they didn’t particularly taste of anything, neither did the green liquid. It was my favourite of the two raw dishes though.
Wanting to sample something beefy and not too heavy on the portion, I opted for the bavette with green peppercorn and laver at £19 over the pork option of Tamworth Chop and mojo rojo. To add a bit of substance to the dish, I opted for the coal roasted potatoes with caper and anchovy butter along with hispi cabbage, pork fat and xo crumb.
After a bit of a breather and a few more sips of red, I decided I was ready to take on one of the desserts. A cherry, sherry and salted caramel tart. Sticky, sweet, salted and decadent. Just what you want to end a delicious feasting.
What can I say, I think everything was on point from the setting, seeing everything cooked over the fire in full sight and the food was banging. I’ve cought Andrew Clarke at Meatopia since too and once again the food was on point. Great ingredients cooked with no nonsense, over the fire just how it should be. If you’re in the area, I’d definitely recommend stopping by for food.