For all the wonderful simplicity single menu demi-chains offer they are the anathema of fresh, seasonal and diverse cooking. In most instances you sense a replica version of the menu is likely stapled to the freezer to itemise the frozen boxes of readymade meals that line the shelves, and so it is that I have come to both be thankful for the straightforwardness but simultaneously cautious of the quality of any restaurant that champions such a system.
Little Smoke is the latest eatery opened in conjunction with Scott and his Noble Inns team, joining Smokehouse, Pig and Butcher, Princess of Shoreditch and taking the place of the late Bad Egg. Sat amongst the bustling new restaurant scene behind Moorgate station it has a raw, rustic-chic vibe stemming urges to throw on a lumberjack shirt, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in to meat in its most unadulterated form.
Sure this is another single-side menu jobby, but it’s a single-side menu with a twist. For within the usual restaurant blurb, sides and sauces there is a little bit of text that will send a shiver down the spine of any meat lover; “Please see the blackboard for tonight’s meat extravaganza”, and what a blackboard it is!
The restaurant specialises in meat from native and rare breed animals sourced from independent farmers, with the board getting chalked up and chalked off as you eat. Compared to plethora of stagnant menus littering the London restaurant scene this offers up rare and arcane cuts that are never usually seen outside a butcher’s home kitchen. The daily changing menu features whatever’s been butchered that day over at Smokehouse, with an array of almost exotic-sounding cuts available day-to-day which are roasted, smoked or grilled whole.
The rest of the menu is dedicated to a smorgasbord of delicious accompaniments, with extra care taken to ensure that as little food goes to waste as possible. Homemade sauces like aged beef mayo and smoked apple puree, and sides like burnt chilli greens and bone marrow mash, feta and harissa feature among others.
We tucked in to a hearty chopped brisket roll with gochugang and crispy flat bread, habanero, marinated feta, charmoula and baby coriander to start, paired with locally-sourced craft beers from across the country. The combination was, simply put, superb. Tangs of heat were neutralised by vibrant sauces and crisp, hoppy beer, with portion sizes which allowed your appetite to be whet but not spoilt.
Which is a good job, considering the size of the meat dish that followed. An entourage of staff push cutlery and plates out from the middle of the table to make way for a large oval plate of smoked knuckle and shoulder of lamb that fell away at the slither of a spoon. Bone marrow mash and succulent greens filled the rest of the table with a robust Portuguese claret paired perfectly with the aromatic herbs, spices and smoked meat.
And not to be defeated by the feast of varying main course options the desert and digestif menu is absolutely stunning. We finished the meal with two smoky whiskies, none of which were sourced from the go-to heart of Peat, Islay, and thoroughly enjoyed them both.
How seldom it is that you find a restaurant so inventive and pioneering as this, but how refreshing it feels when you do stumble upon one. Bravo!