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|Address:||36 The Cut, London SE1 8LP|
|Tel:||020 7928 9898|
|Price: £39.00||Wine: £16.00||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sun -5pm) Mon-Sat 6-10.30pm|
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It's a pleasingly comfortable deep red space, built out of the base of a horrific 60's block on The Cut, just down from the Old Vic and virtually next door to the Young Vic. Despite the restaurants (it's also home to Meson Don Philipe, Livebait, Baltic, at least 2 species of Tas and many others) and theatres, it is still a residential area, attested to by the loud children playing knock-door-run (or some felonious version thereof) with the local shopkeep.
The local crowd, large even on an early lunchtime, look like they've just come from a performance at the slightly arthousey Young Vic next door. They know it's important to get in early as they don't take bookings. By 12.30 you can see why. It's absolutely rammed, all rickety rough sanded tables in the snug dining room taken, many other wanna-eats crowding the similar sized bar on the other side, chugging back early pints of Youngs Broadside while they wait for a table. We popped in on the off-chance having met here for a beer, were tempted to stay, and helped out by the friendly staff who found a table within minutes.
You can see the influences and shared heritage from places like St John. From the casual tumblers of tap water (brought unrequested with no bottled water upsell) and wine to the portions of beautifully soft, chewy sourdough that whet our appetites, it's unfussy, uncomplicated, casual dining. The menu is focussed around game and offal, with a few fish dishes (though not much for vegetarians) and I've got to say that I hadn't been looking forward to a main course as much as this for some time.
With so many things on the seasonal menu I knew whatever I went for I'd be envious of the rest. The hare ragout with semolina gnocchi sang to me from the list, but was rather disappointing in delivery. The ragout was packed full of flavour, the hare slow braised to tender gamey perfection, but the sauce was a little too stew-like for me, the juice a little too light, and the semolina ‘gnocchi’ a slightly tasteless slab that didn't soak up enough of the juice. Two of the others had the confit of duck, dark soft flesh flaking off the bone, skin salty and crisp. We shared a generous portion of buttery greens, unnecessary due to the large portions but eaten swiftly. The puddings were excellent. A tart and sticky damson bakewell tart came hot from the oven and lasted seconds. Nico Polo's pistachio cake was pronounced similarly excellent.
Don't be put off by the potential for a wait if you don't live locally. It's a laidback place worth travelling for, so turn up, relax at the bar and put your name down. Surely you're with someone you can have a couple of relaxed drinks with? And besides, the best things come to those who wait.