'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 has opened his first solo restaurant in a former strip club in Shoreditch, with a logo whose font 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 visit) trouping up the stairs above Smoking Goat to see what all the fuss is about.
The house speciality turbot is cooked Basque-style in an iron cage over a wood grill until the flesh is almost melting; it’s already had more rave reviews than Hamilton but is a struggle for two people to finish, so we went instead for smaller plates followed by a beef chop. Some of the flavours were happy memories from Kitty Fisher’s – the smoked cod’s roe that is the perfection of taramasalata, piped on to a finger of toast like a savoury éclair; the almost gamey flavour of the beef – and some were new revelations: a sort of puffed-up naan bread slathered with oil, flecked with chives and draped with three intensely flavoured anchovies; oysters roasted to draw out their sweetness, topped with pickled seaweed.
The flip side of the menu is printed with 35 wines by the glass, including seven sherries; there’s further fascination in in the wine list proper. It is, without a doubt, very enjoyable cooking – Parry has an innate sense for how to extract the maximum natural flavour from high-quality ingredients – but what sets the place apart is the mood. The blurring of kitchen and dining room feels completely democratic, as too the eating counter and tables packed so closely they may as well be a communal bench, while right now the atmosphere crackles at that febrile pitch of diners who know they are in London’s hottest restaurant.
True, some may find the workshop machismo of cooking with fire in plain view a tad preposterous (it reminded us of Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court), and the sight of fanboy diners queueing up to congratulate Parry is cringe-inducing. But, overall, we were captivated by the spectacle.