After last night’s excellent dinner at Dabbous with Tom and Rick and dinner planned tonight at Brick Lane’s newest opening, Hopscotch, I worried that booking Lyle’s for lunch was excessive. Maybe I should save it for a special occasion, or a time when I hadn’t eaten so much food, so recently? But when would that be? Plus, it’s only 10 minutes from the house and I hadn’t made it yet. This morning I was working from home before finishing up for Christmas, so it seemed like perfect timing. When I looked online, they had one table left and it would allow us to get to the theatre that afternoon to see The Buried Child in plenty of time. It was fate, I was meant to go to Lyle’s and so, at lunchtime, Tom and I set off for our second Michelin meal in under 24 hours.
Lyle’s is set in the lovely, bright, airy Tea Building in Shoreditch. The dining room is overlooked by the open kitchen and has a relaxed, casual feel.
Partly because of time and partly because we could (dinner is only offered as a tasting menu), we opted for the a la carte menu over the tasting menu.
Our waiter was very helpful in making recommendations in a soft Irish lilt that could persuade you to do anything he suggested, never mind order the special. While we made our decisions, he brought us some beautiful sourdough, blackened crusts and chewy dough.
In the end, we went for exactly what he suggested. We chose three smaller dishes and one larger because we planned to have a pudding.
First to arrive was the Pheasant and Mallard Terrine. This was packed with chunks of meat and also included pork and rabbit. The flavours which were rich and gamey, which were nicely balanced with the smooth sweetness of the crab apple jelly. The salad was topped with fried breadcrumbs which were slightly greasy, like the fried bread of my childhood. The combination of ingredients worked really well.
Buttermilk crumpet, chard and oxtail was insanely good. The meat was soft, moist, juicy and just the right amount of fatty. Little gems of caramelised skin had even more intense flavour. The slightly bitter chard a good contrast to its richness. The role of the crumpet in all of this was to soak up all the lovely juice and it did its job well. This was my hero dish, we literally mopped the plate clean.
Our final dish of saddleback pork was slightly larger but the balance of flavours was just as well assembled. The pork was served two ways; loin, tender and sweet, and belly, juicy, fatty and topped by excellent crackling. The flavours of the pork were intense, cut through by the bitterness of chichory and the saltiness of capers and yet more lovely breadcrumbs.
In the end we didn’t have dessert because nothing really jumped out at us and we needed to get to the theatre.
Everything about Lyle’s was excellent and I especially loved the relaxed, casual atmosphere which again shows that excellent food doesn’t need an austere, fine dining setting to showcase it. What Lyle’s excel at are simple, brilliant combinations of flavours.
I’ll definitely be back.