We've been to a few speakeasy spots in New York and it's always great fun walking through noodle shops to find hidden cocktail bars - it's an easy way to feel like you have the run of the city. That's clearly the vibe that Young Turks chefs Isaac Mchale and James Lowe are after with their new Shoreditch spot at The Ten Bells. On a Friday night we literally had to fight our way through the madding crowds below to find the staircase at the back. It says no entry - pay no heed.
Upstairs there's a first floor dining room, where if you're a couple you'll either have to dine communually - which is a lot more fun - or get there early to nab the only table for two. Another floor up is a private dining room (pictured on the right) which is apparently booked almost solid up until Christmas (there may be one night free if you're lucky). The whole thing feels like the natural progression for an excellent pop-up or supperclub; restaurant dining with all the fun but none of the faff.
The menu here is no-choice - you gets what you're given - but as we're unashamed fans of the Young Turks cooking - that's fine with us. Our meal kicked off with a delicious little round of freshly baked bread and butter and a splendid Hendricks Tom Collins. This was swiftly followed by rabbit liver & blood crackers, teeny turnip and mallard cakes and an anchovy dip with slices of fennel that was so good we had to wrestle it back from the waiter to lick the bowl clean.
Next up was seared mackerel with radishes and tarragon, followed by one of the standout dishes of the evening - potatoes and onions on a lovage sauce with melted stinking bishop. We weren't done yet - as there was a lovely piece of fallow deer cooked two ways - one melted down into a sort of confit and also as a very tender, pink steak which was served up with toasted barley and ribbons of carrot. Finally - and exceptionally - was a dessert of yoghurt, beetroot, apple and sorrel which was the only dish that has ever made one of us (a committed beetroot hater) come close to loving that particular root.
If all the challenging flavours on the plate aren't reason enough to come here - the front of house should be the clincher. Dan and Johnny of the Clove Club work the room like pros. They recommended one natural wine to us, a frankly startling Anjou 2010 Mosse that, like the food, makes you rethink your attitude to certain things. And, if you like the music, you can take the Young Turks vibe home with you by listening to Dan's weekly playlist on Spotify here.
The room was heaving as we left - but a good tip if you've not been able to get a table thus far is to chance a walk-in. There's also a good chance of tables becoming free if you swing by here around 9-ish. As for the Young Turks - they're here ostensibly until the end of January, but we hear that there's a good chance they'll extend their residency in Shoreditch.
For just £39 for the food and starter cocktail, we can't think of a better way to spend your money eating out in London right now.