'Brat' is the Northumbrian vernacular for a turbot but it’s also a knowing wink from Tomos Parry. The Welshman won the Young British Foodie Chef of the Year award in 2014, wowed in his first head chef gig at Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair and then opened his first solo restaurant in a former strip club in Shoreditch, with a logo which blends Celtic and Basque typefaces.
While Kitty Fisher’s had David Cameron as its most famous regular, now it’s the likes of fashion designer Henry Holland and a nightly brigade of Parry’s curious chef peers (Fergus Henderson and Jeremy Lee on our original visit) trouping up the stairs above Smoking Goat to see what all the fuss is about.
The house speciality turbot (for 2 or 3 people) is cooked Basque-style in an iron cage over a wood grill until the flesh is almost melting. And with more rave reviews than?Hamilton?it’s easy to understand why getting a table is still far from easy.
Some may find the workshop machismo of cooking with fire in plain view a tad preposterous, but there’s no quibbling with a menu that is simple but unfussy and majors in first class raw materials that push new boundaries of flavour and are cooked with precision, balance and understated class.
While some of the flavours are entirely new and cutting edge, others are happy memories from Kitty Fisher’s, although these may no longer be constants on the menu. One bite of Tomos’s seminal smoked cod’s roe, piped on to a finger of toast like a savoury éclair, tells you how carefully he has sourced and conceived his dishes, and you’ll be enchanted by the delicate grilled breads slathered with oily and intensely flavoured anchovies or wild garlic and Spenwood (hard sheep’s cheese). Even a potentially opinion-dividing dish of Hake Kokotxas (the neck of the fish), in the tastiest of sauces, comes off with daring panache, while oysters, roasted to draw out their sweetness and topped with pickled seaweed, are a delight.
A nice range of fairly priced cocktails puts you in the mood for the occasion of it all. The wine list has 30 wines by the glass, including seven sherries, while a lively, textured and wonderfully complex Tantaka from Spain is typical of the wider fascination on the wine list proper.
The premises are simple but caressing, with pendant moon lights bathing the room in a gleaming warmth that bounces off brickwork, panelling and exposed ducting, while a grand view of Shoreditch through tall, Crittall windows adds a convivial romance.
The blurring of kitchen and dining room feels completely democratic, as do the eating counter and tables packed so closely they may as well be a communal bench, while beautifully orchestrated service from a flotilla of young, engaged staff demonstrates passion for food (and good drinks) and is measured, genuine and infectious. The atmosphere continues to crackle at that febrile pitch with diners who know they are in one of London’s hottest restaurants.