photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
The year is 2014. A selfie taken by Ellen DeGeneres featuring Kevin Spacey has the world enamoured. The term ‘conscious uncoupling’ is a thing. And, in London, a vast warehouse restaurant on the corner of Shoreditch High Street serving reimagined British cuisine is the place to eat. It’s called Lyle’s and, despite celebrity cancellations plus a new age of goblin-related terminology, it continues to be one of London’s most assuredly cool and creative big deal restaurants.
Now a contemporary veteran of the dining scene, Lyle’s feels like the person you want to talk to at a dinner party rather than one who blabs too much. The space—whitewashed and towering with industrial grandness—is the archetypal dining room for east London royalty. Thick-rimmed glasses come here for schmoozy meals alongside clean cut couples celebrating their anniversary with a cloud-like bergamot meringue tart. Once upon a time this was a spot where wannabe hip London foodieistas would fill the room but, these days, Lyle’s has settled down to a pleasing hum of relaxed conversation between locals, tourists, and last-minute chancers at the bar. Like a world-class footballer in their twilight years, it simply knows what it’s doing.
photo credit: Xavier Girard Lachaîne
Day or night this restaurant has a buzz to it. The servers glide around the space with a glint in their eye recommending the plumpest of orange mussels or the most mood-setting of wines. Given that dinner is an eight-course tasting menu priced at just under £100, it’s fair to say that Lyle’s is suited to celebratory occasions as it’s more than likely to do some damage to your bank account. Although lunch is our favourite time to eat at Lyle’s. It’s when sunlight streams through the warehouse windows and an à la carte menu is also offered, allowing you to eat what you want. Whether that’s some of the best mussels in the UK (grilled and served with a truly chuggable cider butter) or a refined take on pie shop eel and parsley sauce (with the additional flare of mangalitsa pork). When plates of food land at Lyle’s they aren’t pretentious, they’re just perfect.
Hot spots come and go and by the time Five Guys moves into the corner of Boxpark Shoreditch, the folks here might wonder about pastures new. But until then London should remember that some things improve with time, and Lyle’s is very much one of them.
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Bread And Butter
If you ever had the pleasure of enjoying the bread from Spa Terminus bakery Flor (now sadly departed), then you should know this is where it came from. Its spring sourdough is perfection and the butter it comes with, complete with one of those pleasing wooden (and presumably hand-carved) butter spreaders, is creamy and salty joy.
Grilled Mussels And Cider Butter
First thing’s first: save some bread. Secondly, order this. These are the plumpest, most luminously orange mussels we’ve ever eaten. The kind of mussels that could convince someone who doesn’t eat mussels by choice to have a little nibble. They’re not salty and not overbearingly fishy, and they’re lolling about in two of the best things on planet Earth: booze and butter. This cider creation is a cashmere sauce with the lightest touch of piquancy from the cider.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Smoked Eel, Buttermilk Potatoes, Parsley, And Cured Mangalitsa
Pie and mash shop fine dining at its well, finest. Anyone who says British cooking is all potatoes and stodge should refer to this dish, which has a suitably lovely spread of silky mash at the heart of it, of course. The eel here, delicately smoked and falling apart at the idea of a fork, is topped with Rizla-thin slices of mangalitsa. It’s smoky, it’s meaty, it’s fresh from vibrant parsley sauce, and it all melts in your mouth.
Bergamot Meringue Tart
It can be reductive to describe things in relation to something you know. Like when you go on holiday, see an area of high volume market tat, and say ‘this is the Camden of XYZ!’. But, the thing is, this bergamot tart really is a key lime pie that went to finishing school. It’s as light as a feather, makes your lips pucker, and the pastry would have Paul Hollywood handing in his P45.