Tasting Notes — October 2019

I’m dusting off the blog’s Eating Out pages again, starting with a rush through a handful of notables from the last 4 or 5 months. There’ll be another one in a few days featuring Kolamba, TATA, Orasay and Allegra. But for now…


You know about this place already, I imagine? Yes? No? Whatever, here’s a summary:

Flor is a small but very pleasingly formed bakery-bar-restaurant on the perimeter of Borough Market. There are a few tables and bar seats downstairs, where you’ll need to tuck your elbows in while appreciating that the kitchen team have even less space and are doing just fine. Up a winding iron staircase is a beauty of a double height room — exposed brick, massive windows, clean lines, wine storage as a feature because it’s appealing and suits the aesthetic (also, there’s no room for it elsewhere). Book for up here if you can.

Noise-wise the first four months have gone exactly as could have been predicted, with hype (a new restaurant by the Lyle’s crew!); hype met and #instamplified (*THOSE prawns*, *THAT* lardo and anchovy toast, and *THE* lardy bun); a few five-starry-eyed critics in at the start; and then a Rayner “let me go against the grain” review later on.

After a number of lunches and countless pastries, my take is that the truth is (as ever) somewhere in the middle. But closer to the punch-drunk praise than the party-pooping end of things.

This is one of those relatively rare London openings: it’s a restaurant of genuine quality that’s improved ‘the scene’; somewhere that ought to be around as a dependable drop-in ten years from now and maybe beyond. Temper your excitement with the knowledge that the owners and backers (James Lowe, John Ogier and JKS) have created what I suspect they intended: a low-key medium budget modern dining experience that’s better than most, not a Blow Your Mind once in a year gastronomic trip.

Flor feels very Paris wine bar, perhaps with a bit of Melbourne thrown in, with the food offer being familiar (unsurprisingly) to anyone who’s ever grazed the Lyle’s lunch menu — granita-topped oyster here, a perfectly seasoned salad there, à point meat or fish with a garnish that’s deceptive in its simplicity but eye-opening in effect — that said, some of the most successful dishes have not, on the face of it, been typically ‘British’ or ‘interesting’ enough to be a Lyle’s dish. For example an aubergine, tomato and feta tart is as obvious a combination as you could find mid-late summer. But this particular one was also the peak of its genre, involving a very fine and crisp buckwheat flour tart-shell, smokey aubergine, dattarini tomatoes at their best and just enough feta, plus a secret smudge of courgette purée at the base to hold and bring everything together. So good.

You do need to build a meal for yourself, rather than a collection of dishes. And that’s not necessarily as simple as choosing a bunch of ‘small plates to share’ because as is so often the case, many of them are better eaten by one person only (and rarely by more than two). My suggestion would be: don’t go with more than 3 friends (and preferably just 1, I’d say), then agree on a few snacks to share, before selecting the dish you really fancy to have for yourself (and give away no more than a taster). End with brown butter cakes and whatever ice cream is on the menu, because they’re outstanding.

Finally, a nod to the coffee and pastries. Available from 10:00am. And top class.

florlondon.com — 1 Bedale St, SE1 9AL — 020 3319 8144

Lagom at Hackney Brewery

We should talk about Elliot Cunningham’s Lagom at Hackney Brewery. There’s been a bit of coverage (actually same as Flor: Jimi Famurewa from the Evening Standard and Jay Rayner — who was a fan this time). But really, not enough for what I’d gently suggest is a top 3 London Sunday roast, and just a great food offering through the rest of the week.

Cunningham uses smoke and fire to subtle and classy effect, and while the menu draws you in with meats, this is not a basic Meat Fest; the menu is more considered than the heavy-smoke and sweet sauce ‘BBQ’ that became trend 7 or 8 years ago, and as effective as anyone else cooking over ‘live fire’ at the moment. Vegetables are as respected and engagingly treated and presented as the meat (a smoked, rehydrated then fried mushroom side dish that was as good as any mushroom dish I’ve ever had). And Cunningham seems set on sourcing the meat that he does use as carefully as possible. Interestingly he recently revealed his outstanding, highly praised and very beefy beef burger had in fact, for some months, been a goat burger. (Kid goats are a byproduct of a dairy industry and if not eaten (as is so often the case) they quite literally go to waste. So here is a clever way of avoiding ordering kilos and kilos of beef mince without wondering what happens to the rest of the cow. Arguably a more climate friendly ruminant too.).

The brewery Lagom resides in is tucked underneath some arches on the east side of Hackney, which perhaps explains why it’s not on everyone’s wish list. But it’s a decent space, and in any event can’t be long until he adds another venture / ends up somewhere more central. Watch out for it / head over to the current place asap.

@elliotcunningham — Eat Lagom, 17 Bohemia Place, E81DU — 020 8986 2643

Quality Wines

A quick aside to say that Quality Wines is a superb place to stack up (more) small plates and clink a few (more) glasses of wine. Attached to the indomitable Quality Chop House, but with its own separate identity, the chef Nick Bramham stands over an induction hob and passes over smartly curated and precisely cooked plates to fit the season and mood. It might be as simple and effective as a ball of burrata at bursting point and house foccacia, terrine made in house, or fresh porcini in garlic butter. Or as clever and memorable as a perfect, tender octopus tendril curled over chermoula slicked chickpeas. Front of house Gus Gluck ups the charm further  (there’s not really a front nor is it a house, but you get my point). Save space for pork fat cannoli filled with whipped ricotta. Mega.

A great place to eat.

qualitywinesfarringdon.com — 88 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon, London EC1R 3EA — Tuesday to Saturday, 4pm-10pm, no bookings

And in passing

Other recent eats worth stopping by if passing include (the Not New) Bright, Oklava and Anchor & Hope; (the New-ish) Emile, SnackBar, Fen Noodles, and Sons + Daughters; and (the Already Gone for now but maybe David Carter and Chris Leach will bring it back?) 10 Heddon Street.

Keep an eye on @rocketandsquash over on instagram for more in the moment detail on meals eaten in restaurants of all types.