Lyle's took over the Tea Building gallery space next to Pizza East a few weeks back. It has been one of the hotter openings as James Lowe from the Young Turks goes solo since the Upstairs series. I have held off from the Clove Club because Ten Bells and I didn't quite click, but I had a good feeling about Lyle's.
The dining room was quite stripped back with school chairs, polished concrete and painted-over brick walls, plus an open kitchen to warm up the space; it reminded me of St John Bread & Wine only with much more space. Since it's a set menu of 8 dishes for £39, we didn't have to ponder over the menu. We kicked off with a bottle of Hungarian red, which I shan't comment, and some crusty bread.
Smoked Eel & Horseradish
A couple of nibbles to kick off our meal. The small fillet of fish was plump and fatty, with plenty of fish oils to give it lovely flavours. Interestingly we all thought the fish reminded us of mackerel, probably due to its strong fishiness, which I really enjoy. The horseradish gave a good punch to the subtle smoke, almost like a British take on Japanese pickled mackerel sushi.
Blood Cake & Damson
Another nibble with black pudding. The distinctive pungency from pigs blood was very subdued as the flavours were quickly replaced by the mild fruity acidity from the plum juice. The combination was bold and refreshing - strong start.
Asparagus & Walnut Mayonnaise
I'm not too much of an asparagus fan. Not because I don't like the precious, seasonal vegetable, just that I haven't learnt to appreciate it as much as the others do. Restaurants somehow get away with just pan-frying, or worse, blanching them, yet everyone loves it. Maybe I haven't come across really good ones, but right now, meh. The walnut mayonnaise was stripped off its bitterness and left with a mild nutty fragrance, which went very well with the crunchy asparagus. Overall though, as a dish, I wasn't excited.
Turbot Broth & Sea Beet
This was easily my favourite dish of the evening. The thin strip of turbot was perfectly cooked to its softest, slithery form, and broke into slices with a gentle poke from the spoon. The broth was not dissimilar to clam miso soup, perhaps marginally over-seasoned as it got too salty towards to the end; it would have been even better with a clearer soup for the turbot to come through.
New Season Onions, Ramson & Yoghurt
Hmm... I still haven't made up my mind about having just onions on a plate as a course, even as an interim. I thought the onion dish at Story was beautiful, more because it was served with a gin broth that made me a bit light-headed; the one at Dabbous was okay, again with a clean broth. This... perhaps like asparagus, I just don't understand. It was pan-fried spring onions and onions with a smear of yoghurt. Yea okay I'd eat it, but is it supposed to be an exquisite dish?
Mutton, Anchovy & Spinach
Despite its popularity, I didn't enjoy Upstairs at Ten Bells much which is why I haven't been to the Clove Club yet. The roast lamb I had back at Ten Bells was a big disappointment, sadly this mutton chop was no better. I don't usually mind the rind of fat, as I think the grease gives much of the flavour, but it could do with a lot more grilling to bring to flavours out. Afterall a thick strip of lukewarm opaque fat was hardly appetising. It wasn't a bad piece of meat, just under-prepared. The anchovy sauce didn't work as it overpowered the relatively meek chop, and there was nothing pleasant about chewing a mouthful of anchovy.
Baked Riseley & Chegworth Leaves
I enjoyed this cheese course, it was creamy and stretchy, more savoury and flavoursome than the usual mellow Camembert.
Rhubarb & Custard
I have mixed feelings about Lyle's. I found the food significantly more enjoyable than Ten Bells, definitely more creative with finer execution, but I'm still not convinced. There were a couple of courses that I thought were very good, not great enough to etch into my memory but still strong, and a few others that I felt impartial or just downright baffled about. Perhaps I thought it was trying too hard with the trendy ingredients and fixed multi-course menu; perhaps I simply haven't learnt to appreciate modern British cuisine. Either way, I believe it's time that the Young Turks and I recognise our differences and part ways.
56 Shoreditch High Street
Tel: 0203 011 5911