One of the restaurants I was determined not to return to Bangkok without eating at was Lyles http://lyleslondon.com/ on Shoreditch High Street, a partnership between former St John Head Chef and “Young Turk” James Lowe and former St John and Gymkhana front man John Ogier, that has been wowing the critics since it opened earlier this year.
My lunch date was my chef friend Stu, who is also married to one of my closest friends, and I could see he was going to be the perfect lunch companion when he took a quick look at the menu, looked up at me and asked which dishes we were going to be sharing first. The lunch menu at Lyles – dinner is a £39 tasting menu – is made up of around 8 smaller plates and 3 more generously portioned main courses, heavily influenced by local, seasonal ingredients (yes, yes I know a lot of restaurants say this but it is definitely true where Lyles is concerned) with new dishes appearing on the menu on what seems to be a weekly basis and so prior menu research had been futile
After a quick aperitif, we settled on sharing 3 of the smaller plates to start with; Duck Hearts, Sweetcorn & Hazelnuts, Raw Beef & Mussels and Brown Crab, Pink Firs & Runner Beans, with Stu choosing Dexter Flank, Baby Gem & Anchovy for his main course whilst I chose another of the small plates as my main, Girolles, Egg & Onion,
The duck hearts arrived first, ½ dozen of them, cooked perfectly pink and juicy, under a mountain of slightly browned, roasted sweetcorn with a dusting of cheese and a handful of hazelnuts for added crunch. The combination of textures and flavours was just so perfect in its simplicity, each element contributing something valuable to the dish, yet equally delicious when eaten alone. Next came the raw beef, roughly chopped in a good sized dice with a mussel puree, shredded hispi cabbage and dried kelp. The creamy, salinity of the mussels and the intense umami hit from the dried kelp made the beef so much more interesting than just a regular steak tartare and impressed even me, in my non beef eating state. Rounding off our trio of appetisers was the crab, pink firs and green beans, with the crab element of the dish being a rich sort of crab veloute or foam, spiked with a little paprika and mustard, which enveloped the waxy potatoes and crunchy beans like a warm hug on a blustery autumn day.
The Dexter flank showed the kitchen had just as good a way with cooked beef as with raw, coming nicely charred on the outside but succulent and juicy on the inside with just a pinch of glistening salt flakes and the cooking juices for added flavour. The wilted baby gem and anchovy side was worthy of a starring role in its own right; the sweetness of the baby gem and the salty, briny anchovies were delicious and I loved the freshness and lightness of the pairing. My egg too, was absolute perfection. Earthy, woody mushrooms, with a pinch of toasted breadcrumbs for added crunch and sweet, charred white onions adding a pleasingly smoky dimension to the dish whilst the astringency of the fresh herbs and salad leaves cut through the eggy richness remaining at the end.
A cheese course followed, as did more wine and digestifs before we reached the end of our meal with Treacle Tart & Milk Ice Cream. This is one dish I usually shy away from ordering as it is some what of a family favourite with both my Grandmother and Mother making versions that put everyone else’s to shame. Lyles’ version however was a deeper filled treacle tart than I am used to and had a beautiful balance of treacle and citrus to it, the milk ice-cream whilst the very epitome of simplicity had Stu in raptures and was all the tart needed – well that and my beautiful aged rum!
I am so glad I made it to Lyles, stylistically it was very different to other restaurants I ate at on this trip and each dish was a smash hit of a success. My only issue with it is that its a bit too far away from me to visit as often as I would like as I can only dream of their beautiful Game preparations and what they will do with next Springs beautiful vegetable bounty! No serious food lover should visit London without paying Lyles a visit, of this I am certain.