Unlike all the other posts in this series, this meal was completely impromptu. On a recent Friday, Husband and I met up in Shoreditch (our old but always hood) after work and thought, where on earth/Shoreditch/Most Popular Land for Hipsters on a Friday Night at prime time will we be able to eat dinner without a reservation? Oh, I'm sorry, without a 'booking'. (Okay this is one I'm actually starting to say though, eek. Choosing my battles.) Most of the cool places book up way in advance, the others (like Dishoom) forcing you to line up for hours like you're waiting for the latest iPhone. While walking around somewhat aimlessly, we walked past Lyle's, which is right across from the BoxPark and the overground station. Lyle's opened relatively recently and was virtually immediately awarded a Michelin star. For dinner, it offers a set tasting menu, and books up in advance. We knew it was totally booked but figured it was worth asking. You don't ask, you don't get, as the philosopher Strega Nonna says.
After we were seated in the open, airy, totally unassuming dining room (where I could watch the open kitchen from my seat! I can see Russia from my house!), we were brought, without too much delay, a pitcher of tap water. Those who know me know that this is the way to my heart. Strong start. Then we were brought a basket of really good hearty bread. Second way to my heart. My heart was so happy! On to the food!
Like other Michelinas, Lyle's usually gives printed menus to each diner. However, since I surprised them, I didn't get a printed menu, so the following descriptions of the dishes are pure guesses.
The tasting menu officially consists of four dishes (for 44 GBP, not bad at all!), but like most places with tasting menus, the chef sends out a few off-book snacks to start you off and make you feel special. My first baby dish was roasted carrots, baby ones that still had their little green tops and were really cute and very good. They tasted like they had been wood-roasted on special delicious wood, reminding me of the magicked wood at Asador. I know you're like, so hold up just a second, those are just two very small plain carrots. Yeah but they were good carrots and they were bonus food. I would say something about not looking a gift horse in the mouth but then I realized horses LOVE carrots and I feel like there is a better line in there somewhere.
My next bonus food was like the perfected version of a child's after school snack. It was literally a slice of peach topped with raw white almond slivers. I thought, um, what, okay cool? But then I breathed, and I smelled the strongest peach scent I've ever smelled. I don't really recall ever eating a peach that smelled as good as this piece did even when it was still on the plate, feet away from my nose. I can't recall any fruit ever smelling that good and that strong from so far away! (Durian doesn't count it is the Voldemort of fruits.) The almonds were the whitest things I've ever seen since my legs circa two months ago. Really a fun little snack!
The first of the official dishes I think was actually my favorite. I got a dish of fresh peas topped with edible purple flowers and lightly dressed greens. So simple, I know. But so well done. When good restaurants serve me peas, they're usually the best most perfect peas ever and I kind of freak out because I really only use frozen peas and it's in soups and similar jawns that cook for ages and they get super mushy and they're just completely different from these perfect little adorable peas. Real good.
Next up to bat the Rosarios they run the cab company oops no it's this meta world beet dish. I'm skeptical of a dish that is mainly beets but these were damn good glazed little beets! Moreover, those greens on top are the beet greens, one of my favorite pieces of greenery and one of the hardest to find (because I don't buy bushels of beets straight from the earth who does that). They were dusted with walnut powder, a surprisingly brilliant mix of two very earthy foods.
Overall, Lyle's offers a very nice tasting menu for a very reasonable price, and I bet with advance notice, you'd get an even better meal, maybe with some protein. When we asked for the check, they brought two more bonus desserts! I got a tiny 'sandwich' of delicate cinnamony crackers with blueberry compote. Neither component was sweet enough but it was pretty nice still! Huzzah.
Water speed: Very impressive for a London restaurant! I wonder if they talked afterwards about how they never had a patron go through so many jugs of water.
Service: Very nice and accommodating, considering I surprised them. Service itself was good for most of the meal, but the second half slowed down a great deal. I think I spent over an hour between finishing the girolles and getting my dessert. A lot of that is because Husband was given an extra dish, but not all of it was that.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms are single serving, one for men and one for women. Like all places with this setup, they should just make it singles for everyone. I don't get the specifying for gender when it's single toilets. I mean maybe the men's has a urinal but it also must have a toilet so come on. They had nice soap but also had that weird pull chain from the ceiling to flush like so many London places do because this city was built a billion years ago and the plumbing is atrosh. This is the most I've ever written about toilets and I feel weird.
Food: Overall nice, simple food done very well. Despite it being many courses, it felt non-sickly.
Bonus: Be so cool dining in Shoreditch with all the cool people!