It seems that each week a new restaurant springs forth from the asphalt in east London. The area still offers lower commercial rents than central or west, meaning the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive at a smaller, more idiosyncratic level. This has put us at the dawn of an era we’re predicting will be characterised by outstanding neighbourhood eateries. Seen to great effect with Mayfield’s, ‘local’ need not be synonymous with mediocre, nor ‘east’ with trendy. The goal is creative culinary expression, with menus devised by the new breed of British chefs. These folk have dispensed with ersatz French and Italian bistro fare and are embracing varied international influences as much as they are local ingredients.
Lyle’s opened recently to great expectations. Leading the kitchen is young chef James Lowe, who made a name for himself as one of the Young Turks, along with Isaac McHale of award-attracting The Clove Club, which is just around the corner. Lowe’s impressive rounds include the Fat Duck and a stint as head chef at St John Bread & Wine. He and the rest of the Turks took up residency above the Ten Bells pub and staged a series of dinner clubs including at Frank’s Café, tarting up British produce to great effect wherever they went, while keeping prices reasonable and broadening their fanbase.
Lyle’s doesn’t immediately sell itself as a neighbourhood joint. It’s on a main road, at the doorstep of the City and in the same building as Pizza East. But it’s a local restaurant at heart and destined to be considered as such, thanks to Lowe’s personality shining through. Flavouring is gentle but decisive across the board. The fresh peas popped with the creamy Ticklemore goat’s milk cheese. Raw beef and mussels made for a dainty surf ‘n’ turf. The turbot, leeks and smoked roe was an incredible, simple dish with a touch of Nordic know-how. Upscale add-ons include amuse-gueules – rich blood cakes, smoked eel with horseradish – and concoctions like walnut mayo and seaweed salt.
This is his first solo venture and Lowe is making good on his penchant for pretty. Flowers are liberally sprinkled, and colours balanced and blocked across dishes. Owen Wall’s ceramic plates add a textured touch with their puckery white surfaces, while the unobtrusively modern interior doesn’t compete with the sparse and graceful ingredient combinations. Accessible pricing is clearly still important to Lowe – the generous tasting menu is an unrivalled £39. There’s also no sense of rush or impending table turnover to spoil the evening. All of this is bound to have locals returning time and again.
What we love about Lyle’s: perfectly prepared ingredients; idiosyncratic combinations; democratic pricing