Clerkenwell’s airy and accomplished new bar and restaurant

Lino is headed up by Richard Falk, previously of The Ledbury and The Dairy in Clapham

A curvaceous tulipwood bar, serving botanical-infused cocktails, is centre stage at Lino
A curvaceous tulipwood bar, serving botanical-infused cocktails, is centre stage at Lino | Image: Giulia Mulè

As I walk into Lino I am struck by how big and airy it is. In contrast with the general trend in London restaurants to squeeze in as many covers as possible, tables here are spaced out so you can enjoy a meal without ending up unintentionally eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation. The new bar and restaurant, part of the Wright & Bell bar group, is housed in a former linoleum and carpet warehouse, so there is room in abundance, with a curvaceous tulipwood bar given centre stage.

Beef tartare and bone marrow with egg yolk and grilled sourdough, £10/£16
Beef tartare and bone marrow with egg yolk and grilled sourdough, £10/£16 | Image: Giulia Mulè

While the cocktails – with botanical infusions created in the kitchens – are undoubtedly a big hit, the food at Lino is my focus. Richard Falk, who previously worked at The Ledbury and The Dairy in Clapham, heads the all-day kitchen. Falk’s approach to food is to prepare as much as possible in-house: freshly baked sourdough, cured meats, cultured butter and pickles, fermented yoghurt and ice cream.

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The menu features a mix of snacks, small and large plates and sides. While deciding on our starters, we order bread and butter (£2.50) and sauerkraut and cheddar croquettes with truffle mayonnaise (£5). My advice is to order one portion of the latter to share: they are too good to miss. On the wine list, my interest is piqued by an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 from Bodega Cecchin in Mendoza. My friend and I order a 500ml flask (£26) to share, which comes down to two small glasses each.

Pork belly with cavolo nero, celeriac and white cabbage choucroute, £18.50
Pork belly with cavolo nero, celeriac and white cabbage choucroute, £18.50 | Image: Giulia Mulè

Next is aged beef tartare (£10/£16) for me, and roasted beetroot, black garlic, dates and cashews (£8) for my friend. The mix of raw beef and bone marrow with smoky and creamy egg yolk, served with grilled sourdough, is decadent and delicious.

Croissant bread and butter pudding with croissant ice cream, £7
Croissant bread and butter pudding with croissant ice cream, £7 | Image: Giulia Mulè

For mains, my friend plumps for pork belly, cavolo nero, celeriac and white cabbage choucroute (£18.50), the tender pink meat a perfect pairing with our Cabernet Sauvignon. I am set on the lasagne (£14) of pumpkin, Jerusalem artichoke and Parmesan until the last moment, when I change my mind and order a lighter dish (I’ve heard great things about Lino’s puddings and I want to fully enjoy them): Cornish pollock, poached salsify and seaweed butter (£18) takes me to a beautiful sunny day by the coast in the West Country. The fish is well cooked and seasoned; the crunchy salsify at the bottom of the dish is fully coated in salty seaweed butter.

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Finally, dessert: one miss and one big hit. A warm chocolate mousse served with milk ice cream, chocolate biscuit and quince (£7) doesn’t fare well. Maybe it’s because I find a “warm mousse” to be a contradiction in terms: to me the perfect mousse is cold and firm. The croissant bread and butter pudding (£7), on the other hand, is to die for – a thick slice oozing butter with a hint of bitter marmalade. A scoop of croissant ice cream works so well here. It’s made with the leftovers of the laminated croissants prepared by Falk every morning, and it’s one of the best desserts I have tasted in a long time.

I leave Lino feeling satisfied, joyful and intending to tell all my friends to book a table immediately.

Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with the @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.

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