Uncompromising but welcoming, a light and bright operation in the ‘School of St John’, offering an interesting and evolving menu at prices which encourage experimentation.
James Lowe is part of a diaspora of former Young Turks – a group of ex-pop-up chefs which also includes Isaac McHale, now of the esteemed Clove Club, which is located not far from Lyle’s, in Shoreditch’s old town hall.
Whereas the Clove Club is a quality operation that comes at West End prices, however, Lyle’s is a quality operation which seems something of a bargain, given the level of skill and care on display. Even the multi-course no-choice set dinner menu is a relatively reasonable £39, and our modest lunch for two, with a glass of wine each, weighed in at just over £50.
Shoreditch restaurants nowadays all seem to offer food that’s either breathtakingly obvious (chicken bits anyone?) or obscure: old-fashioned middle-of-the-road rarely gets a look in. So at Lyle’s, for example, the shortish lunch menu, changing daily, may include such delights as ‘Blood Cake & Pickled Chicory’: take Aunt Mathilda elsewhere, as this is cooking decidedly in the School of St John.
The uncompromising setting is in keeping, but it is light and airy and softened by the undoubted charm of the staff, who are efficient too. Many of the dishes come with fashionable floral highlights which (so far as we know) have not yet been adopted in St John Street. Nasturtium flowers, we’re beginning to think, are the New Black.
In fact, all the dishes here – whether florally enhanced or not – are notably nice to look at. Perhaps that’s no surprise with a dish like ‘Chegworth (Kent) Salad Leaves’, but ‘Raw Beef and Mussels’ (a sort of roughly chopped tartare with the seafood turned into an emulsion) was surprisingly attractive too. We also enjoyed our very fresh ‘Peas & Ticklemore (goat’s cheese)’, despite the fact that almost nothing – including cooking – had seemingly been done to any of the ingredients.
Surprise hit? ‘Leeks, Turbot Roe (think taramosalata) & (ground) Hazelnuts’.
Surprise miss? This is one of those places where they introduce the coffee beans by name and ceremoniously serve the resulting brew in a glass carafe. Just us, or do the results of these venerated brews never quite live up?