Rumour, as Adele might say, has it that in 1888 Jack the Ripper identified his victims at the Ten Bells. Indeed, on the wall of pub is a list of JtR’s alleged victims (although argument still rages as to whether it is six, as listed, or only five that he disembowelled). What Jack would have made of the current trend setters in this part of Shoreditch is anyone’s guess: mine is that the list would be a lot longer than five/six victims.
Go up the stairs behind the door marked “no entry” and you find yourself in the restaurant. A small bar one side, some ornate chandeliers, a few tables with mismatched chairs scattered around and some a la mode art on the walls: a neon entreaty to “keep me safe” on one wall, a (frankly creepy) rendition of “Gabrielle d’Estrees and one of her sisters” with the sisters replaced by two nakedly smiling gentlemen, on another.
So the place is cool. So cool that my 17 year old niece, who we took along for a late evening out of the rain, thought it was cool. And, vintage leather jackets aside, she is hard to impress in the coolness stakes.
I’m not so sure about the profusion of facial hair on the staff, but maybe this is their schtick, much like the profusion of tattoos at Spuntino (again voted cool by the 17 year old who knows): to work here, you must sprout a beard. I was pleased to see that the waitress had not got that memo.
White peach fizzes got the evening off well. The arrival of the food meant that it continued in the same vein: I would generally always chose a dish that has bone marrow in it, but call me old fashioned, I just don’t get meat with fruit: why put blackberries with bone marrow? It did look good mind when the next door table had it. Instead, a playful assembly of diced razor clams (another “must have” if seen on a menu) and Indian spices came to the table, to have a courgette soup poured over and around. A truly sensational combination. The poached egg, cheese and gherkin ensemble also worked excellently well.
Lamb came with anchovy (always a good combination with Baa Baa), spinach and a potato rosti. The skin of the beast had been cooked to a crunch, yet the inside was beautifully pink. The best lamb the 17 year old has so far enjoyed. Smoked belly of pork was as excellent as it sounds: soft smoky meat, crackled skin, accompanied by oat groats and some sliced radish. Simple, superbly prepared and masterfully presented.
The wine list is short and fairly priced and the service exemplary: friendly, efficient and unobtrusive.
I am sure that the 17 year old would rather have gone on to Callooh Callay, Casita, Nightjar or one of the other uber-cool Shoreditch joints, but sensing that our old bones couldn’t handle this, she was gracious in letting us depart. We will be back, as uncool as ever, perhaps with a patina of coolness bestowed by association with hanging out with the coolest kid on the block.