Some new restaurants are promoted so far in advance of their launch that the professional critics are almost bored with them before they open. Others save everything for a big launch ‘push’. The canniest ones prefer to wait to get their product sorted out, and then wage the big PR initiative. And others just sneak onto the scene without anyone noticing. (The best time for this is the middle of the year, when you can just ‘miss’ the deadlines of most of the annual guides).
The mid-2004 Shoreditch sidestreet ‘newcomer’ we review today is an example of the last category. It’s still not mentioned in most of the guides. Perhaps it’s because the establishment is as much a bar (with DJs) as a restaurant, which can sometimes confuse critical pre-conceptions. This dual function, however, doesn’t seem to have got in the way of its success, as witnessed by the fact that the place looks too well worn in for its stated age. I queried this with my waiter: ‘you should see the place on a Saturday night’, he replied.
On a cold lunchtime, however, it was the dining room – with its large open kitchen – which was the most populated part of the establishment. Guidebooks or no, the place has clearly established itself as a popular destination for what you might call practical business lunching, and with good reason. Though there is nothing at all Gallic in the look or feel of the set-up here – the cooking is mainly Italian – the appeal seems to be essentially that of a good brasserie. It’s just a handsome but unshowy space – as emphasised by the brown paper tablecloths – where thoroughly satisfying and unfussy food is speedily served by friendly staff.
You may well be seeing rather more of in it the guides in future.