40 St John Street
London, EC1M 4AY
0207 490 9230
We’re still buzzing from the high after our amazing meal at Eastside Inn. While we were in the tube on the way back we replayed various scenes from the meal in our heads, reliving every emotion felt and sense evoked as each dish was presented to us. The first sight, the first smell, the first taste, every memory of that fantastic meal was recalled. As we type this, there is a sense of nostalgia, the kind one feels when leaving a place that one’s lived in for years, and a sense of excitement for our next visit, which we have already made reservations for.
Indeed, this was the single best meal we’ve had this year. This award went to Roka last year, and we were planning to make another visit there to bid London goodbye just before we leave for good. Plans for that have kind of been shelved – for one, there’s been a fire at Roka and they’re closed indefinitely; secondly, we think that Eastside Inn might just possibly be our new most favourite restaurant in London of all time. So, yes, our reservations have been made, and we will be back on September 9th to celebrate K’s birthday (in advance). Can’t wait!
This restaurant is only a year old, but it runs like a well oiled machine. The attention to detail is remarkable for such a young restaurant, and from the moment you step in to the moment you leave, you’re made to feel absolutely at home. Eastside Inn serves French food. We’re not huge fans of French food, especially A, since she doesn’t like cheese, or cream, or anything with the texture of cream. We’ve both travelled quite a bit in France, and have eaten in many French restaurants. On one of our more recent trips to Paris, we ate at Taillevent, a restaurant which was awarded 3 Michelin stars for 34 years, and is currently a recipient of 2 Michelin stars. We’ve also gone more budget in Paris, and eaten in less posh places, but despite all these experiences, standing head and shoulders above all the places we’ve eaten at in Paris is Eastside Inn, in Farringdon, London.
Well, you could say that we’re not too fond of the French. They have a certain air about them that is quite off-putting. What we just love about Eastside Inn is that you can have really top notch French food without the French, if you know what I mean. Service is beyond excellent here, unlike what we’ve experienced in France. (We really don’t mean to slag off the French, but seriously, they don’t do themselves a lot of favours by the way they interact with non-French people, especially in France. But this post isn’t about a discussion of France and the French, so back on to the food.)
An amuse bouche arrived at the table barely seconds after we sat. These were nice and light, very reminiscent of the amuse bouche we had at Taillevent. Have to say though, the ones at Taillevent were better – more fresh and fluffy; the ones we had today at Eastside Inn sat around perhaps for slightly too long (but that could have been our fault – should have stopped staring at the cocktail menu), but then again, you would expect a 2 Michelin starred restaurant to pretty much kick everyone’s a**.
Appetisers – we had the sardine special, and the Char-grilled baby squid. The baby squid dish was really good. The fennel in the dish was a very interesting addition, and instantly we became fennel fans. The sauce was lovely, with a little bit of sweet, a little bit of salty, a little bit of sour and a little bit of a milky texture (carnation milk perhaps?). The sauce mixed together complemented the squid perfectly.
The sardine special was just out of this world. There was quite a lot going on on the plate, but everything came together really well. The sauce was once again tangy and salty, and the olive mash at the bottom was just incredible. 2 slices of toast were served to accompany the dish, and when paired with the sardines, balanced the strong flavours very nicely.
For mains, we had the Roasted Duck Breast and the pork cheeks. The roasted duck breast was amazing. The duck was cooked perfectly, slightly pink in the middle just like how it should be. The fat was very well rendered out, leaving a thin layer of duck skin on top of the meat, which was crisped to perfection. On the side were white and yellow peaches, which we thought were potatoes initially, and some watercress. The perfect bite would consist of a slice of duck (with the skin), a little bit of peach, and some watercress. With each bite you get the juicy, tender texture of the duck meat, the brittle, crispy texture of the skin, and a nice tart flavor from the peach. The combinations of textures and flavors were mind-blowing.
The pork cheeks. My oh my, those pork cheeks. And that sauce. Goodness me, that cauliflower puree was a revelation. That (lemon infused?) olive oil was also just ridiculously good. Words can’t describe how amazing that dish was. It’s not the prettiest looking dish in the world, but boy does it taste good. The pork was clearly marinated for a very long time, and a tonne of love went into that cauliflower puree. When I die and go to heaven, I believe this dish will be there to welcome me at the pearly gates. I could go on and on about how wonderful the dish was, but seriously, words can’t do it any justice. Best. Thing. I. Ever. Ate.
At this point in time we were very satisfied – not immensely full, but who needs to be immensely full when you’ve just had quality? We took a quick glance at the dessert menu, and weren’t feeling particularly inspired by any of their offerings, so we decided to pass. As we sat and chatted, mostly gushing about the pork cheeks, we saw this strange, almost apple strudel looking thing sitting at the pass. The manager must have seen us staring at it, and the next thing we knew, he had swung by our table with that dish, and explained that it was the Classic Dessert, the Mille-feuille, and it had just been freshly made. At that moment we knew we were going to have it.
While the dish was being prepared, a palate cleanser was served, and this was a juniper berry sorbet, wrapped with some whipped cream and some strawberries underneath. It was truly refreshing, and the strawberries were excellent.
Not long after, our dessert arrived. It was cut and plated table-side, right before our eyes. If there was one word to describe that dessert, that word would be GENIUS, all in caps. Who in the world would ever think of using olive oil, salt, bay leaves and thyme in a dessert? Chef Bjorn did, and it was absolutely mind-blowing. GENIUS. That man is one talented chef. The combination of flavours was extraordinary. You got the impression that you were having dessert, but the flavours were nothing like any dessert you’ve ever eaten, yet it’s all so familiar, and strange, and wonderful, and you try to figure out what you’re eating, and before you know it you’ve finished the whole dish. Yes, and I was very tempted to lick the plate. I think I might have, but I can’t be sure since my mind was struggling to comprehend what I had just eaten. This dish gives new meaning to the phrase mind-blowing. It is incredible, and the single most innovative thing I have ever eaten.
Obviously, the people here care about their food, and about their customers. The servers went around making sure everything was going well, and we even had a little chat with Justine, Chef Bjorn’s wife, and co-owner of the restaurant. We truly felt at home the entire time. As food critic Jay Rayner put it, people go to Eastside Inn “not to be seen or talked about, but to eat”. Indeed, it is a very unassuming environment, and the food is the star. Everything is made fresh there.
We overheard a conversation between the lady at the table next to us and Chef Bjorn, in which she asked if her dish could be prepared in a certain way. The chef replied that it would definitely be possible since they make everything from scratch, and she said that she would like the dish to have no butter. And he said ok. The kitchen has an open concept, and everyone can see the action that happens within. What we saw were a group of people who had a passion for food, and an immense dedication to quality control. Everything that came out of the kitchen was really good, and we simply can’t wait for the 9th of September to roll around for our next visit to Eastside Inn.