Friday, 28 June 2013
Elliot's, Borough Market
Elliot's first came to my attention, as is true of far too many places, when I tried their burger. Currently at number 3 in Daniel Young's exhaustively-researched top ten list, it's a work of near-genius, combining heavenly Ginger Pig mince, homemade brioche, beer-braised onions and - fanfare please - Comté, which is, in my underqualified opinion, the perfect gourmet burger cheese. Anywhere that can produce a burger as good as this surely has more tricks up their sleeve, so I made sure to return and try as much of the rest of the menu as my wallet and appetite would allow.
I know I'm late to the party on this one, not least because Elliot's has been open for over a year, but it is a lovely place to eat. Bustling but not too loud, the exposed brickwork and wooden furniture functional but not uncomfortable, it's really settled into this bright little spot in Borough Market and is clearly very popular as a result. Staff, youthful, graceful and smiley, trotted merrily around and were never too difficult to engage, and we never wanted for anything. With a setup as immediately enjoyable as this, the food only needed to be adequate to be worth the money. Happily, it was much better than that.
But first, cocktails. A Bellini and a Negroni were each, as you might have hoped for £8 and £9 respectively, excellent, and highlighted again how accomplished so many restaurant bars in London are becoming. Time was, even in the fanciest of places the most you could expect was a warm gin and tonic, but we're really getting the hang of this kind of thing now.
With Wright Bros just next door, there can't be many people who would come to Elliot's just for the oysters, and it's probably just as well as these were rather dry, slightly too creamy and the mignonette sauce needed a lot more flavour.
But crab on toast was much better, with a very generous amount of the good stuff and a little dollop of some sort of clever brown meat mayonnaise.
"Deep fried lamb's sweetbreads" were ordered mainly out of sheer curiosity; what arrived look quite like a corn dog but was in fact a row of plump sweetbreads threaded onto a rosemary twig, breaded and fried together. It was nice enough, but I still think I'd prefer them all pan-fried and caramelised. Still, marks for originality.
Suckling pig was beautifully moist and with bags of flavour - this was self-evidently a very high quality bit of pork. Barley added a bit of texture and the sweetness of braised heritage carrots complimented the protein - we particularly enjoyed the carrot that could have been a beetroot crossbreed, which was so dark and inky it coloured the plate.
I've had quite a few pigeon dishes recently, because I bloody love pigeon, but sometimes it takes a stripped-back preparation like this to remind me what's so special about this little bird in the first place. Perfectly pink on the bone, with its legs removed and braised separately with lentils, this was simple and satisfying and the kind of thing I could quite happily eat every day until the day I die.
Finally I should say a few words about a side of potatoes, bacon and shallots which may not be the most earth-shatteringly innovative combination of ingredients but boy did it taste good. The potatoes had a lovely golden crust and were all glossy with bacon fat. Marvellous.
At just over £50 a head with no dessert and not a vast amount to drink, Elliot's is not a cheap dinner. But the attention paid to ingredients, and service, and wine (the list is chosen by Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron, and is largely if not wholly natural if that kind of thing floats your boat) means that you don't begrudgingly open your wallet. This is the kind of place that shows the tourists of Borough Market what London restaurants are about, as well as reminding locals how good they have it. I have a feeling Elliot's may be around for a very long time.