Test Drives

clamCherrystone clam with Sichuan oil and coriander

So what do we need to know about St Leonard's?

Where have you been? This is probably one of, if not the hottest restaurant openings in London this year, being a joint enterprise between Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke of Brunswick House.

Where is it?

They've taken over the space previously occupied by the Eyre Brothers on St Leonard's Street just south of Old Street roundabout. And that's the nearest tube, just a few minutes walk away.

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

Normally we'd point you in the direction of Nightjar for cocktails or maybe The Princess of Shoreditch as a creditable boozer/gastropub, but the easy answer is actually here. Nearly half the space is given over to the bar area at St Leonard's with a horseshoe bar you can sit up at and loads of top bar snacks too. There's a  shortlist of 12 house cocktails like a Tommy's Margarite or Penicillin, all priced at £10. It was the day after National Martini Day so we had an exemplary vodka martini with a twist and a great rhubarb gimlet.

custardSmoked eel and foie gras custard

What's the dining room like?

If you remember the space from the days that early adoptors Eyre Brothers were here, you'd hardly recognise it. The whole place looks so much lighter and brighter. There are particularly nice tables up along the window, but if you're keen on seeing the chefs at work, then you need to be at the back of the dining room checking out Clark running the cooking over fire side of things or Jackson working the meat slicer or plating up from the shellfish section.

So what kind of menu is it?

There's a snacks section with bread, olives and charcuterie on it, and then it's split into shellfish, raw/small plates, hearth and sides.

A quick glance at Insta will show you everyone going for the cherrystone clam with Sichuan oil and coriander (£9) but, for our money, the best options in the shellfish section were the dressed and flamed oysters (both £3.50 each) the first came with pickled garlic, the other was topped with breadcrumbs and lardo. I mean, you just would, wouldn't you?

Smoked eel and foie gras custard (£12) - St Leonard's take on chawanmushi - came topped with pork scratchings and would have been the dinner highlight (although to be fair the bass with lardo and burnt kohlrabi was good too) had it not been trumped by a main course you'll be hearing a lot about - roast monkfish, sitting on buckthorn molasses and topped with sea herbs. It's £48 (and says it serves three although we'd say it's more like two) but it's going to vye with Brat's turbot as 2018's fish dish of the year. And if you pick the Dexter bavette (£16), that comes with cured and frozen bone marrow grated on top.

We're sure you wouldn't - but just in case you're thinking of swerving on sides, you'll kick yourself if you don't order the hispi cabbage cooked in pork fat and topped with spicy xo crumbs (£5).

For desserts a nice green Sichuan pepper panna cotta came with strawberries and sweet ciciely ice-cream (£6) but, god, the salt caramel and East India sherry tart was marvellous (£7).

monkfishMonkfish with buckthorn molasses and sea vegetables

What is there for vegetarians?

There's plenty on offer, from a dish of grilled leek with almond cream and summer truffle on the raw/small section to the vegetable plate which doesn't sound amazingly exciting, but is apparently a chef's selection of the best veggies in season, served grilled on the fire and then topped with salsa verde and olive oil.

What about drink?

As you'd expect from a restaurant such as this, the wine list has been given plenty of attention. Glasses start at just £4 for a 125ml serving of Godello but there's plenty to push the boat out for too, including a Cordon Charlemagne Grand Cru '15 at £685. If you like sweet wine with your dessert, then look out for the German Bacchus Beerenauslese by Winegut Carl Koch.

Overall thoughts:

Back in 2001 when Richard and David Eyre first opened Eyre Bros in Shoreditch, they were pioneers in this rather bleak part of town. Now, Old Street and Shoreditch might be where London's most cutting-edge digital work gets done but it needed someone new and pioneering to bring fresh life to this restaurant site. Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke might be brothers with different mothers, but they seem like the right pair for the job.

 

tartSalt caramel and East India sherry tart

More about St Leonards

Where is it? 70 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4QX

 

Find out more: Visit the website and follow them on Instagram @stleonardsec2. Follow Jackson and Andrew on Instagram @jackson_boxer and @fleurdelysldn

 

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