St Leonard’s was originally a joint venture from chef duo Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke, but now is only overseen by Clarke after the pair (who previously collaborated on Brunswick House) parted ways. Butch, austere interiors involving an abundance of polished concrete look the Shoreditch part, while as at nearby Brat, St Leonard’s is a homage to flame-licked cooking, with an impressive wood-burning hearth tended to by a brigade of extravagantly tattooed chefs.
The menu of grilled meat, fish and veg reads simply but soon reveals its complexities. Take a dish of ‘flamed oyster’, in which the intensely smoky shellfish arrive flame-grilled under a heap of crisp, lardo-soaked fried breadcrumbs. Elsewhere, a daringly sweet set custard is topped with luscious foie gras and slivers of silky smoked eel, then finished with a swirl of crunchy chicharrones (fried pork rind).
Not everything is so successful. A small plate of golden beetroot topped with almonds and crème fraiche felt dull, while a dish of thick-cut, smoky pork jowl was too fatty to be enjoyable. There was no faulting side dishes, though, especially blackened hispi cabbage, dipped in pork fat and topped with a scattering of breadcrumbs.
Desserts are more conventional, but still impress. We were particularly taken with a sherry-injected salted caramel tart, perfectly offset with cardamom ice cream. If you prefer to finish your meal with a drink, head to the bar where you’ll find a 200-bin wine list available by the glass or carafe. Despite a few small missteps, we think St Leonard’s is well on its way to becoming a classic.