For a long time my favourite spot for weekend brunch was Brunswick House – the much-lauded restaurant opened in a haphazard, antiques-filled Georgian mansion in Vauxhall in 2011 by chef Jackson Boxer, who was later joined by Andrew Clarke as chef director in 2016. Their current shared venture, however, couldn’t be more different aesthetically; St Leonards in Shoreditch, which opened its doors about a year ago, is sparsely elegant – all concrete floors, high ceilings and polished wooden tables. The food, meanwhile, is equally worthy of attention.
St Leonards serves a daily-changing menu of classic flavours, with a focus on food cooked over a fire (see the “hearth” section of the menu) or served raw (oysters, fish, tartare). On a weekday lunchtime, my friend and I plumped for the set menu (£18 for two courses or £22 for three) and shared each of the three courses. The standout dish for me was one of the starters: slices of yellow beetroot, with a potato-like meatiness, paired with crème fraîche and black garlic, which tempered the sweetness. It’s one of the few dishes I’ve eaten recently that I couldn’t stop thinking about – a fine example of Clarke’s cooking. Nor did the raw mackerel with soy butter and dandelion disappoint, showcasing Boxer’s bold style as well as St Leonards’ great-quality produce.
Our two mains were flawless: a Tamworth pork neck with Piattoni green beans and wild-garlic pesto; and two thick fillets of bream coated with dulse seaweed butter and crunchy herbs. A side of coal-roasted potatoes (£5) with more wild garlic was also delicious – and needed to fill me up, as the portions are on the small side. The only dish that didn’t work for me was the chocolate ganache dessert, served in a deep ceramic pot topped with a foamy layer of almond cream – the presentation didn’t do the flavours any favours. On the other hand, the Alphonso mango sorbet was simple and light – and ideal with the glass of organic 2016 Trebbiano (£8), from Cirelli La Collina Biologica in Abruzzo, I had happily picked to pair with the fish.