BY ANOOP PARIKH
It’s a sign of just how crazy the East London commercial property market has become: Shoreditch is now cheaper than Hackney. At least, that’s the experience of sommeliers Jack Lewens and Ed Thaw, who recently opened Leroy Shoreditch, after closing Ellory, their Michelin-starred restaurant in Mare Street, in March this year.
Classically luxurious ingredients, cooked in the Modern European way and served as sharing plates, featured on Ellory’s menu, where they could be paired with wines on an exclusively European list. The general vibe was minimal, although we remember a lot of marble, and the overall experience felt a bit more grown-up than intended.
Thankfully, the mood is much more casual at Leroy. The wedge-shaped room is kitted out with tongue-and-groove panelled walls, cushioned seat pads for your bum, and pretty illustrations by the brilliant Louise Sheeran. “We want it to feel more like the places in Paris where (head chef) Sam (Kamienko) used to cook,” explains Lewens. Known as ‘caves’, these places were often restaurant annexes or sister properties, where the idea was to serve interesting and personally chosen wines with simpler food.
Lewens is now based in Paris, but spends much of his time making wine in the Cilento region of Campania. The results are bottled under the Vigneti Tardis brand, and no visit to Leroy should pass without tasting its Malvasia and Fiano blend, which reminded us of the lightest chilled white vermouth. We tried it with two of the snacks on offer that day: a plate of Friggitelli peppers, given the treatment that’s usually reserved for their Spanish Padrón cousins, and heavenly whipped cods’ roe with crisps. It was good with the crisps, but also good on a chunk of bread.
We followed this with two small plates. First up, perfectly chargrilled asparagus, in a pool of butter, and anchovy-laden bagna cauda, garnished with toasted almonds. Followed by deliciously executed gnocchi with tomato, hazelnut and wild garlic pesto.
The set lunch of the day, which has to be one of Shoreditch’s bargains at £20 for three courses, then beckoned. The first course was sweet tomatoes, simply dressed and piled on toasted brioche. Followed in short order by a roasted pork chop, which had been shown the heat just enough to caramelise the outside. Served with salsa rossa, it was lipsmackingly good, and showed how little needs to be done to great ingredients. The final course was a chocolate pot, no more than half a dozen teaspoonfuls of creamy deliciousness, and all the better for it.
In our view, giving up the marble and Michelin star was a very wise move. We loved the room, the wine list and of course the food. For now, it’s a steal. Go before everyone else does.
18 Phipp Street, EC2A 4NU