Pop quiz: what is the best street for restaurants in London?
The question was put to me yesterday by someone who had been discussing it with friends. They had concluded St John Street (Farringdon) and Frith Street (Soho).
Nae bad, I thought.
I suggested, though, that Dean Street (Polpetto, Rosa’s, Dean Street Town House, Cay Tre, the new Duck Soup) is at least equal to Frith Street (Arbutus, Koya, Moolis and more). But thinking through all of those Soho venues, surely there must be better streets?
Bermondsey Street is staking a strong claim these days, what with José, Zucca, the Garrison and soon Pizarro in spitting distance of each other. The ten paces that take you past L’Autre Pied, Trishna and Roganic on Blandford Street is pretty punchy too.
Surely, though, no street or road beats the stretch that’s got Koffmann’s and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Bar Boulud and Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental? It helps, of course, that technically this is the A4. So as well as those hotel restaurants, the road can also lay claim to 101, the top floor of Selfridges, (for the first 10 days of October) the Thomas Keller £250 per head French Laundry pop up at Harrods, Racine, and no doubt a whole host of other eateries on the way out west (including Best Mangal II at the West Kensington junction, which does easily the best kebab I’ve had in London).
What struck me most during this marginally embarrassing exercise in restaurant name dropping, was that, actually, A4 aside, no road in London is really that rich in quality eateries (bear in mind the question was about specific roads, not an area).
Moreover, there are quite a few roads and streets that you think must be, but on closer inspection are not. Upper Street in Angel is a classic example of a road that should be great to eat out on, but isn’t.
Does Stoney Street, which runs along the south edge of Borough market also flatter to deceive?
Of course it starts impeccably with Brindisa. But then the other restaurants don’t quite live up to expectation built by the surroundings (not least nearby Neal’s Yard Dairy, Monmouth Coffee and everything else that the market brings). I think Wright Brothers is fun, but these days they supply oysters to so many others, that I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there. Black and Blue? Err, no thanks. Feng Sushi? Not if it’s no better than its sister on Kensington Church Street (also not even close to the eating out destination it ought to be). And, although I’ve never been to Roast, neither have I met anyone who has been and said anything other than ‘fine, but far too expensive for what it is’. They’re all basically OK, but other than Brindisa, not worth a detour.
So I was intrigued to see whether Elliot’s Cafe, Stoney Street’s newest venue, would tip the balance.
Elliot’s does breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve only been for a quick meal in the evening (hence the long, space filling, but probably drawn out and boring list of roads and restaurants above). But I liked what I saw and ate and, when next in the area, would go back. In fact, I enjoyed supper when I went, but suspect it excels at the earlier mealtimes, so intend to return for breakfast, brunch and/or lunch.
If I were an estate agent, I’d say the room is nicely appointed. Good quality, but casual wooden furniture, bespoke fittings, bare brick walls, etc. It’s very SE1. The loos look to have received a slightly bizarre amount of attention – as the website says somewhere, it’s like Beetlejuice has been and laid down a marker. All in all, though, Elliot’s is a good place to sit and eat.
I liked the limited menu: 5 or 6 starters, 4 mains, a few desserts and cheeses. What those courses consist of changes regularly, depending on market availability. Nice.
When we were there, my friend and I shared four very fat oysters (my first of the new native season), served, as they should be, on loads of ice, though I’d prefer proper Tabasco to the chilli ketchup Elliot’s put out. A cold ox tongue, parsley and al dente to raw green bean salad was ace. Tasty and tender tongue and a subtle vinaigrette on the beans was all good.
I had partridge with creamed corn (excellent), bacon and grilled baby leeks for my main course and was mostly pleased with my choice. The good thing about a partridge is it’s bigger than, and so not quite as fiddly as, a quail. The bad thing about a partridge is that even bigger birds (guinea fowl, grouse and so on) can still be a bit of a ball ache to eat, so partridge will never be my favourite thing when I am pretending to have good table manners. I’m just never quite sure that, with knife and fork, I can get all the meat of the carcass and, in ultimately, whether it’s worth the effort.
My friend’s excellent caponata on a hunk of toast posed no such problems. Though I personally wished she’d gone for the brill or beef instead.
We finished with a decent cheese board, complete with rather impressive homemade oatcakes and crackers.
The drinks menu is interesting. I don’t often comment on this kind of thing, but it intrigued me. Positives included being able to choose from the full selection of the very locally brewed Kernal beers, most of which, I’m a fan of. The wine selection was varied, and offered more English options than you’ll often see. But the short list was actually a negative: mostly because despite the limited number of wines, there was a huge variety of price. So in reality, if you don’t want to spend loads, you are shoe horned into a choice from just one or two. I got over it, but I’m not sure it quite works.
From the evidence of this first visit, Elliot’s is not a ‘drop everything and go’ kind of place, but it is a decent addition to a street that, really, ought to be up there with the best of them.
Elliot’s in 3 words
Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.
Mains were in the £15 region (the caponata £10). Starters about £7.50. Little desserts around £4.
www.elliotscafe.com – 12 Stoney Street (of course), SE1 – 0207 407 7436