Friday night date night in London and to Jimmy’s favourite restaurant. Lyle’s.
Jimmy and I have just celebrated our 1 year anniversary and I can’t believe that it’s taken this long to go to Lyles. I blame Jimmy for this entirely. Whenever I breached the subject of booking a table I’d get replies of muttering confused taken by surprise undertones like “we’ll go soon we’ll go soon”. Hmmm if ‘soon’ to Jimmy is waiting one whole year then I better rethink when he says things like “you look nice”. Translation “you look passable”.
Incidentally this was the last ‘hurrah’ evening for Jimmy & I before embarking on the seriously gruelling task of going Sugar free and diary free for September. (natural sugars are allowed and I will get to this more in a later post).
Lyle’s is situated in London’s hip Shoreditch in the Tea Building (for all you non hipsters it’s in the same building as Shoreditch House) and was set up by award winning chef, James Lowe.
For those perhaps at a career crossword and are terrified of taking the plunge into a new direction just think of James. He was completely set on becoming an airline pilot throughout his youth. However, having dined out at two highly influential restaurants in his 20s (The Fat Duck and St John) he suddenly thought that the experience of these restaurants, so unique and undefinable threw him head first into wanting to run his own restaurant.
For James, the restaurant itself is key. Food should be inclusive not exclusive (his mantra and one of mine too!) restaurants that are all fancy pants are for fancy ants who just follow the crowds to the ‘high end’ restaurants because they have white table cloths. Lyle’s defies this entirely.
Airy, lofty warehouse vibe on entrance and filled with cool young hip people, with some normal beige types too (Jimmy & I!). The clientele showed us everything we needed to know as they were all sorts of people, which means James had nailed the ‘inclusive’ part.
We sat down and looked at the menu and to my shock and mini horror it was a set menu which if I am honest I found slightly annoying. I like being able to choose my own food for a start. Also, there is something in me that I hate eating what I know those next to me and around me are also eating. It’s as if I don’t feel special. Dining out is all about feeling like that food is cooked exclusively for you. This takes that away massively.
I asked Jonty – the maître d why this was and he explained its due to the fact that all their ingredients are fresh every day from their suppliers. So, they take whatever comes in. I mean, yes, one side of me gets it but the incredibly narcissistic diner side of me had a problem with it.
We started off on some bread which is currently standing top of my squidgyness, flavour and all-round texture list. This bread was definitely what I like to call doughy heroine aka golden brown. It was an airy light but flavourful sourdough. Delicious.
We were then served cucumber with whipped fish roe.
(This is getting very standard these days and has appeared in most restaurants I have been to recently. Most of the time its radishes though!)
It was good.
First course was undoubtedly my favourite (Jimmy’s too) heritage tomatoes, horseradish and mackerel. This dish demonstrated to me exactly how this chef elevates humble ingredients. It also demonstrated quality ingredients. It was a tomato soup with flavour that just melted in the mouth. Fresh, sweet, summery, warm and fragrant. Totally delicious. The horseradish added some zing, however I really don’t think the dish even needed the mackerel. It almost ruined the flavour of the tomatoes. However, it was salty strong and wonderful anyway.
A true winner.
Main was Pollack. Not generally considered a very flavourful fish but it was well cooked. However, some of these British restaurants continue to add the three main ingredients in French food to everything, butter butter & butter. For me, this is just a no no no. I don’t want my fish baptised in butter.
Vegetables too. This dish simply tasted of butter which was disappointing. I really want to be able to taste ingredients and not just butter.
I’m not eating meat at the moment so I asked for an off menu vegetarian dish which was a butter bean and vegetable soupy broth with edible flowers.
It was warm, comforting and yummy. I could curl up infront of the TV with a bowel of this on a rainy winter evening with some crunchy bread and be extremely happy.
We finished with summer pudding and vanilla ice cream. The pudding itself was fruity and spongey (I don’t really like summer pudding but I went with it, and it was nice). The ice cream was nice, but not memorable.
A much welcomed surprise to finish off our dinner was a little brown butter cake which was a little nugget of golden delishness. Seriously jimmy and I could of eaten 20 each. We greedily asked for another one which the kind waitress swiftly obliged too (albeit slightly shocked by the greed).
All in all, Lyle’s is a great restaurant but is it worth travelling all the way from West to east for dinner? Maybe not. However, it’s a normal menu for lunch, so I best start booking in some meetings in the area pronto.
Rating (0-5) ***