The New Opening The Restaurant World Has Been Waiting For

The New Opening The Restaurant World Has Been Waiting For

We’ve been quietly excited about Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke’s new Shoreditch launch since it was mysteriously announced on Twitter a few months ago – now it’s opened up in an expansive, polished spot just off Old Street. Focusing on raw and flame-grilled wares, the team offers an exemplary take on bold ingredients backed by modern yet delicate cookery…

The concept…

We’re regulars at the antiques-filled Brunswick House on Vauxhall Interchange (it’s the only place to love around that fume-filled circle), so have been really looking forward to chef-proprietor Jackson Boxer and Head Chef Andrew Clarke’s new opening out east since it was announced on Twitter in May.

A new style of kitchen for the duo, the cooking space at St Leonards is exposed and based around a large log-fuelled fire (manned by the hirsute Clarke), while an ice bar filled with raw fish and shellfish is paired alongside it. Across the two sections, the team delivers a simple and ever-changing menu of fish and crustacea, followed by larger sharing joints of meat and whole fish charred over the hearth.

The setting…

Jackson and Clarke clearly mean business; this is a large-scale project that takes in a sweep of the newly reconfigured Leonard Street. On the warm summer night we visited, the light poured in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the sliding doors of the bar were pulled wide open to allow for street-side sipping.

Inside, the restaurant is a vision of head-to-toe polished concrete, accented by sculpted wooden chairs and curved tables. The sleek horseshoe-shaped concrete bar, partitioned off slightly, offers its own selection of substantial bar snacks (think fried fish sandwich with crumbed plaice, pickles and kelp tartare sauce in a milk bun).

The food…

If you’re after a simple salad or a quick bite to eat, this isn’t the place for you. Big on flavour and bold in execution, everything we sampled from the menu offered a hit of umami and an aroma of the unusual.

This was exemplified by our first bite – a raw cherrystone clam served in the shell with ginger vinegar, Sichuan oil and coriander stem. It’s an achievement that even though the spice level was incredible, you could still taste the sweetness of the clam. This delicate touch permeates through the fish dishes: raw mackerel served with soy butter and dandelion is rich and moreish, while raw wild bass topped with salty lardo is served with burnt kohlrabi and a deliciously acidic broth. The hearth side of the kitchen comes into play via the flamed Lindisfarne oyster, grilled over wood, flamed with pork fat and dressed with pickled rhubarb and a sourdough crumb. It’s a thrilling mouthful.

As there was just two of us, we opted against the £90 50-day aged Hereford porterhouse or the entire duck, and instead order the smaller Dexter bavette. One of just a handful of meat dishes, the steak is elevated by a generous portion of grated cured bone marrow. This use of animal fat as flavouring also trickles its way into traditionally vegetarian dishes: a side order of hispi cabbage (a highlight) is dipped in pork fat before being flamed on the hearth and sprinkled with heat-laden XO crumb. Elsewhere, whole bream with carosello cucumber, lovage and yoghurt delights with its summery simplicity.

When it comes to pud, there’s just one thing you need to order – the salted caramel and sherry tart with cardamom ice cream. It’s as rich and indulgent as it sounds.

The drinks…

With a cocktail list compiled by Tony Conigliaro (the man behind the drinks at Bar Termini and Zetter Townhouse), we can see ourselves paying more than a handful of visits this summer.

But away from Tony’s cocktails – which we didn’t sample on this particular visit – guests are presented with a leather-bound wine list. We particularly liked that, right up front, the restaurant offers a selection of ‘50 under £50’ wines. Leaning towards classic French tipples, the list provides an affordable way to match your way through your meal. A short but sweet selection of stickies provides the perfect accompaniment to that sherry tart.

The verdict…

With two exciting young chefs at the fore and a successful restaurant already under their belt, this place had a lot to live up to. But the duo has worked wonders: each bite matches unusual ingredients and marries them together with light cookery.

While many of the dishes are small plates, splitting two oysters, three raw starters, two mains, a side and a dessert comes in at a reasonable £45 per person. You won’t leave feeling full (the menu is rather light on carbs), but you will feel as though you’ve eaten somewhere wildly different.

Given that the menu is ever-changing, we can’t wait to see what earthy offerings next season will bring.

70 Leonard Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 4QX


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