Lodged in a smart townhouse between Aldgate East and Shoreditch High Street, The Culpeper's enviable location puts it in striking distance for city workers and Essex day-trippers. You might not clock it when you first walk in, but this old townhouse stretches up four floors, with old wooden stairs creaking all the way up to a beautiful rooftop terrace.
The Culpeper is stylishly designed on every level but the rooftop is the ultimate star of the show - more than worth the mini workout that it takes to get there. Make your way through a little kitchen-cum-greenhouse area and you'll find a mishmash of bistro patio chairs and tables, and planters hugging the walls housing carefully labelled herbs and vegetables. The Culpeper grows as much as it can on the rooftop, and when the rooftop opens in the summer it makes a real oasis of calm in amongst the humdrum of Commercial Street.
There are two rooftop menus available in the warmer months - a regular and a vegetarian. We try one of each and enjoy a series of smaller bites. The limited kitchen set up (and limited growing potential) of the roof lends best to simple, pared-back dishes and those were the best of what we ate: a beef kofta with mint yoghurt and pickled chilli was a terrific blend of spice, fat and soothing dairy, and we're all for potatoes being given their own spotlight - here, new season potatoes were roasted in the ashes of the grill, then peeled and served with spring onion and creme fraiche. Desserts were excellent too - a lovely creme brulee and panna cotta with poached rhubarb.
The menus are fantastic, but not everything was so well executed. A main course of grilled lamb shoulder with broccoli was right on the edge of acceptable pinkness, and an asparagus, onion and courgette shish sounded good on paper but was uninspiring in practice. There's the seed of something great here - when the sun is shining we expect this tiny terrace will be packed.