You could never accuse the London restaurant scene of standing still and this week is no different, with two ventures from exciting teams officially launching today. Pidgin is a new neighbourhood hotspot near Hackney Central, opened by James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy (the duo behind The Secret Larder supper club), while South American restaurateur Juan Santa Cruz makes his UK debut with Notting Hill bar-restaurant Casa Cruz.
James Ramsden, a blogger and food writer, began hosting The Secret Larder supper club from his Holloway living room in March 2010. Sam Herlihy joined Ramsden in 2013 and a year later, they decided to open a restaurant together. Pidgin (named after Herlihy’s blog Pidginfood) has a similar vibe to it, being a tiny neighbourhood restaurant with seating for 30. Diners get very cosy to their fellow customers and to the open kitchen. We visited Pidgin in its pre-launch at the weekend. The sole offering is a set four-course menu for £35 which will change once a week. This promises to be full of international flavours such as beef picanha with coal-roasted beetroot and bull’s blood salad (don’t worry, it’s just a mildly bitter leaf), or octopus with roast lemon and almond milk (above).
The most important thing you need to know about Pidgin is that the desserts are phenomenal, and we don’t use that word lightly. On our visit we were served strawberry panzanella (a sweet take on a Tuscan soaked-bread salad) with fennel brioche, Thai basil and olive oil ice cream (above) – a light, delicious burst of summery flavour. We were also impressed by our starter of whipped lardo with peas and sourdough (below) and the short cocktail list, including a tangy rye and pickled watermelon sip, The Bradford.
A small restaurant serving just one weekly changing set menu might not work for fussy eaters, but if you’re willing to give yourself over to the kitchen, Pidgin’s exceptional, labour-intensive food is worth the trip to Wilton Way. We suggest making a beeline there before the queues begin to form.
Over on the other side of London, South America has landed in Notting Hill with the arrival of clubby Casa Cruz. This is the first London branch for restaurateur Juan Santa Cruz – his other establishments are all in Buenos Aires. Proper, grass-fed Argentinian steaks will be a highlight of the menu, alongside the likes of sea bass crudo with artichokes and lemon, or charcoal-grilled monkfish, followed by desserts of lemon polenta cake or dulce de leche flan.
Casa Cruz takes the place previously occupied by The Clarendon pub and although there aren’t any images of the interior available yet, by all accounts the space has been utterly transformed. An oval copper bar now sits in the middle of the dining room, while the furnishings also consist of mahogany panelling, mirrored surfaces and a bottle-green carpet. The above image was taken of Casa Cruz in Buenos Aires and gives a good indication of what the Clarendon Road set can expect: glamour and good red wine. There’s even a heated roof terrace that will be open all year – just close your eyes and dream of Argentina.
Of opening in London, Cruz says: ‘it’s the most vibrant city in the world. We are creating a place to cater for all experiences and an unsatisfied demand at the top end of the market. I am incredibly proud and excited to introduce Casa Cruz to London.’
This article was published 7 July 2015