Contained within a note on my phone is an ever expanding list of restaurants I want to eat at. The majority of them in London. So every time I’m back in the capital, even if I’m just passing through, I always hit somewhere new for lunch or dinner or sometimes both, often with some grazing in-between. Don’t be shocked. I think it’s been well established over the years what a spectacularly greedy bastard I am.
As I was back in London last week, for the first time in frigging ages. I decided to have lunch at Lyle’s in Shoreditch. Running the kitchen is Chef James Lowe. Formerly of the Young Turks; a trio of chefs, who, after impressing London collaboratively a few years back, have all gone on to rather awesome things. Upstairs at the Ten Bells and The Clove Club to name but two. Seeing as I absolutely bloody love both of these, my expectations were pretty high.
But first, the simple task of actually finding the restaurant. I’m a pretty punctual guy, I arrived in Shoreditch with plenty of time to spare. I was looking hip and feeling rather louche, as befits the general vibe of the area. The map application on my phone was telling me that Lyle’s was just there, but could I bloody see it? Pizza East, yes. Hipster central, Shoreditch House, yeah, restaurant I have a lunch reservation at? No. I walked up and down the street, increasingly confused and flustered, whilst my own wafer thin veneer of hip was seemingly melting away like a badly applied coat of cheap spray tan.
In the end, I walked into a warehouse office space and asked the receptionist if she knew where Lyle’s was. Barely containing the urge to pull an imbecilic ‘Duh’ expression at me, she simply pointed behind me and to the left. I’d walked straight past it.
On time, just and presenting myself at the front desk of Lyle’s, I was again thrown out of kilter by the aloof manner of the girl manning the reservation laptop. I know it’s cool Shoreditch, dahling and it’s the latest shit-hot restaurant and all that, but would it have killed her to crack a smile and try and appear friendly? Surely it’s a prerequisite of meeting and greeting to flash those pearly whites and actually make the customer feel, I don’t know….welcome?
Ignoring the bad start and determined to enjoy my lunch, I was shown to my table and immediately things improved. My waiter was friendly, cheerful, professional and knowledgeable as he talked me through the menu. Aaaaand relax.
The restaurant space itself feels very large, light and airy as you’d expect from a former tea warehouse, it actually reminds me of the industrial type space you initially walk into at St John in Clerkenwell, which strangely brings me onto the food.
James Lowe has previously worked at St John and it shows. Something of the Fergus Henderson’s influence is seemingly ingrained in every chef who has worked in one of his kitchens. The menu, the ingredients, the plating style, the look of the restaurant, you can just see it and it’s a very good thing. I say this because I ate at new Bristol restaurant, Birch a few days previous to this, and the chef, Sam Leach is formerly of the St John Hotel, his menu, his food, the ingredients that he’s using and even the Spartan look of his restaurant are in some ways similar to Lyle’s, which in turn is somehow reminiscent of St John.
Given that connection, as you’d expect, the menu at Lyles is very British and extremely seasonal. I wanted to order the whole frigging lot from the selection of small plates, but restrained myself to just two.
Asparagus and walnut mayonnaise, very simple but beautifully done. I absolutely love asparagus and can’t get enough when it’s in season, but I really ordered this because I was intrigued by the pairing with a walnut mayonnaise, something which is entirely new to me. It was delicious and worked really well.
The highlight of my lunch and another early contender for the best thing I’ve put in my mouth all year (snigger), Lamb’s sweetbreads, ramson and lettuce. Beautiful to look at, incredible to eat. This was by far the best plate of sweetbreads I ever eaten, anywhere. They were massive, cooked just right and tasted superb with the wild garlic and lettuce. Truly lovely.
Resisting the urge to order another plate of sweetbreads, I continued stuffing myself with meat, moving onto a full sized plate of food. Saddleback, land cress and anchovy. Very simple and St John’esque in appearance. A beautifully cooked piece of pork, paired unusually with an intense anchovy sauce. It was delicious.
At this point, I should mention the excellent bread and butter seeing as I wolfed down two plates of it and while I’m at it, I should also mention the wine, recommended to me by one of the Lyle’s sommelier’s via Twitter (she wasn’t working the lunch shift), Cotes du Jura ‘La Pierre’, 2011, Les Granges de Quatre Sous. It was totally banging. Superb at £7 a glass.
Finally, dessert. Having eaten a rather nice treacle tart at ‘Birch’ a couple of days before, I decided to forgo that option on the menu (those similarities again) Instead I went for Rhubarb and Custard. Consisting of a cold, whipped custard heaped on top of beautiful rhubarb, lightly poached and a quenelle of rhubarb sorbet. It was cracking.
So, I loved Lyle’s. Ignoring the initial rather brusque greeting, I thought the service fantastic and the food beautiful in it’s simplicity. Similar to the grub at St John, but pimped. The lamb sweetbread dish was one of the best things I've ever eaten and I harbour some disappointment that I didn’t manage to eat my way through the entire menu. All in all, I had a stonking lunch. I’ll definitely be going back for more.
56 Shoreditch High Street
Telephone: 0203 011 5911