“So cutting edge you could slice your arm off” Jay Rayner
St Leonards takes its name from the Shoreditch street it’s situated on, and is the love child of Jackson Boxer (who’s worked under Margot Henderson & is now at Brunswick House) and Andrew Clarke (Salt Yard, The Square, St John, The Swan from our home town of West Malling and one third of Jim’s Café, our local biker cafe in Clapton).
It’s a slick concrete operation, all sexy modern styling with the obligatory ferns we’re such fans of, sprouting up out of giant pots here and there. The horseshoe shaped bar is rather lovely (start with an aperitif and a couple of oysters), and shellfish is proudly displayed over on the ice bar which leads into the large log-fuelled hearth which the restaurant is based around. As you’d expect from a restaurant so ‘of the moment’ there was a nice little buzz about it, but it was surprisingly easy to get a table – don’t be put off thinking it’s annoyingly busy, it isn’t.
I was dining with a veggie so we order the only two small plates not to contain meat – and thank god we did. Thinly sliced white beetroot has all the flavour of being cooked over fire, it’s served with a dollop of white yoghurty creamy cheese, a few almonds and a smudge of black garlic. We love it, we rave about it and then the leek dish turns up and makes our knees weak with lust. It’s ‘just’ a leek, but it’s also been given the fire treatment and then doused in an unctuous almond cream that I would happily drink by the gallon. We wax lyrical about both for the rest of night – I have no doubt the leek will creep into my dreams when I’m least expecting it.
When it comes to a main course you have two options, order a big hunk of meat and share it with pals (for example the 50-day aged longhorn sirloin we see being delivered to all the tables of ‘ladzz’, priced at £55, it’s supposed to serve 1-2 people) or get your own. The only veggie option was the vegetable plate which sounds pretty dull but was actually pretty triumphant. Certainly the more filling of the two dishes, it featured a heap of seasonal veg, all grilled and then topped with salsa verde. Simple, delicious. The black bream was light as air, the perfect summer dish, served with fennel, lemon and caper berries. A few fig leaf baked potatoes made it a substantial meal.
To finish we fight over a grown up slice of salted caramel tart – made interesting with chai spices and cardamom ice-cream.
You’ll find some very affordable options on the 200 bin wine list, with 500ml bottles available for a handful of them. A perfectly pleasant glass of Spanish Godello opens up the offering at just £4 but if you’ve got a bit more to spend there’s some interesting orange wines in there as well.
We can certainly see this being ‘the’ restaurant of the moment for a while to come.