Strikingly fresh – I would say. Simple, yet bold. Elegant, yet understated. Lyle’s, a newly opened Shoreditch offering from James Lowe (of Young Turks fame) and John Oglier. Evenings, they offer a tasting menu of 9 courses, including a veg option, of which we partook.
Feeling somewhat frantic on arrival, having charged across town in the midst of a tube strike, I was welcomed and right away I felt transformed. At home, even. A casual intimacy, no pretense or stress. Just contentment.
The interior, like the food, is fresh, delicate and to the point. Polished concrete, dainty chairs and tables. A wall sized cupboard your grandmother would have treasured adorns the entryway. No more than 50 covers, in a good sized space. There’s room to move. A fully open kitchen reveals an equally calm staff (somewhat surprising, this was their first night), quietly preparing fare.
We wanted to take home a jar of the Walnut Mayonnaise. It was creamy, almost whipped and jam packed with nuttiness. The earthy purée complementing the freshness of the crunchy asparagus, stopping just short of distracting. We spread the remains on the fantastic sourdough and gobbled.
It’s nice when one a veg menu is on offer. But even better when you don’t feel at all short-changed. There were a series of gorgeous mouthfuls, starting with Innes (a Staffordshire goat cheese) and honey, wrapped in Mustard leaf.
The dense, slightly salty interior was blanketed with a bitter leaf, laced with the sweet honey. Soon after a Mushroom pastie, quite tempting. Plus, due to a little mix-up, a surprise:
I was quite shocked that they russled this up, to make up for a mistake. It was quite delicate, the caramalised gem leaf melting into the tart cream, broken up with a crunch of nut. Who knew lettuce could be so good.
The wine list was extensive. As the sole drinker this night, I opted for a glass of a Domaine Rolly Gassman, a Riesling from Alsace. It more than hit the spot.
The service, like the atmosphere overall quite well balanced. There was an effortless dance between us as dish after dish arrived, numerous questions were indulged, and banter entered into. First class.
Then the food got serious.
I was concerned about the pheasant egg, but it worked. And provided a protein boost to the meal without reverting to cheese. The soup was just great. Proper earthiness, with a tangy ending you’d expect from nettle. And a perfect consistency.
The new season onions, were so unbelievably fresh and you could tell. Incredibly delicate, yet cooked down perfectly to add an extra touch of sweetness.
There was another course here, of grilled Keveral Farm Barssicas (another stop in the cruciferous family, or a cabbage, to cut to the chase). I’m afraid the light let me down and I couldn’t grab a snap, but suffice to say it was dripping with a buttery sauce, and covered in purple sprouting brocolli. Hard to describe, but Lowe took what might have been another veg, and turned it into another highlight.
The cheese course, as you could call it, took on a different shape to what you might be accustomed. I’m a major fan of cheeseporn, and this Risely happily tipped me over the edge. Cheeseporn heaven. I loved how it melded with the smokey toasted sourdough. But of much surprise was the salad of Chegworth leaves. Dressed in a bitey dressing of I think shallots, it was a triumph. The only salad I’ve tasted that came anywhere near it was one that was forraged that day at River Cottage HQ. So I’m guessing these leaves had been plucked from their beds only hours before.
Despite the ride we’d been on, we weren’t over full and had room for desert.
Loganberry is such an under-utilised fruit. But keeping with the make the most of local theme, this jam added a sweet yet tart splash, while bringing in the taste of another season. Topped with a disc of frozen yogurt, the three ingredients came together well. As much as I enjoyed, the dessert represented my one (small) problem with the meal. Not enough Jam, and on it’s own the cake just slightly too dry. But otherwise, a wonderfully contemporary take on a desert you can imagine gran serving up after a Sunday roast.
And if that weren’t enough, a final taster, a burnt butter cake. More like a Madeline, a perfect mash up of sweet, eggy cake and plenty of butter. You should have heard the satisfied groans.
Lyle’s did what they promised they would, when they tweeted that “It will be good”. They’ve sourced seasonal veg and produce honestly and self-assuredly. The food’s been crafted, to produce dishes which are delicate, tasty and capture the freshness of the ingredients. And they’ve created an environment which wholeheartedly celebrates the food, whilst embracing the diner. As the bill arrived my dining partner remarked that this was perhaps the best meal she’d had this year. I agreed, adding somewhat precociously “the best in London, certainly”.
Lyle’s #Vegetarian Tasting Menu
The Tea Building, 55 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6JJ
Phone: 020 3011 5911
Reviewer: Jared April 29, 2014