After spending a few years 40 floors above London heading up the kitchen at 24/7 big hitter Duck & Waffle, chef Tom Cenci has come back down to earth at Loyal Tavern, although it’s safe to say he’s landed on his feet.
The first thing you’ll get a sense of when walking into the split-level space is just how cosy Loyal Tavern is. Soft lighting, cosy booths and rustic furnishings all add to its sense of charm, and this welcoming feel is only enhanced by the sweet-natured and knowledgeable staff. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Loyal Tavern is a twee gastropub though, as this tavern is turning out some seriously dynamic food.
You can go for the traditional three courses or, as we did, share the menu, though be aware that the food arrives as and when it’s ready, which did occasionally leave us with a pile up of plates to try and polish off before they all got cold.
What we did manage to eat in time though, we loved. A duo of plump and finely spiced lamb skewers were successfully paired with a minty aioli, while a deconstructed cheese toastie saw a bubbling lava of Montgomery Cheddar topped with black truffle shavings, resulting in the perfect combination of indulgence and luxury.
The standout dish, though, was a bowl of buttermilk-poached cod, which was equal parts comforting and robust. The silky fish practically melted on the tongue, while small flashes of heat from the nduja stopped the dish from tasting bland.
Desserts were simpler than we’d have expected from a chef as ambitious as Cenci, but they still did the job. A warm and gooey chocolate brownie was topped with vanilla ice cream, while banana bread came slathered with mascarpone frosting and a dusting of cutesy edible flowers.
The bar is overseen by Antonio Del Monte (formerly at The Ned), and serves up a wine list which champions natural British bottles, but there are also draught beers and cocktails. Loyal Tavern may not be open 24/7 like Cenci’s previous kitchen, but it does stay open until 1.30am on the weekends if you’re in the mood for a late-night snifter.