St Leonards opened in Shoreditch this month on the site previously occupied by Eyre Brothers on Leonard Street. Inspired by a drunken lunch, the restaurant’s concept can be explained in brief as ‘fire and ice’, with co-owners Jackson Boxer manning the ‘ice’ section and Andrew Clarke on the wood-fired grill.
The new opening is the second restaurant from Clarke and Boxer, the duo behind Vauxhall’s celebrated Brunswick House. The pair are well established in the restaurant scene. Boxer’s grandmother, Arabella, was a respected food writer; his father, Charlie, owns well-loved Italian deli Italo in Vauxhall; and he himself is the executive chef of the restaurant at private members’ club Chess Club. Clarke, who is launching The Pilot Light campaign to encourage discussion about mental health in hospitality, is also co-founder of biker café Jim’s Café in Clapton and cut his teeth at Salt Yard, St John and The Square.
Occupying a vast corner site just off Shoreditch’s busy Great Eastern Street, the restaurant’s layout reflects the ‘ice and fire’ concept. The corner houses two very distinct and separate kitchen areas: an eye-catching box of ice displays oysters on one half, and meat on hooks hang over a roaring wood-fired grill on the other. Decor in the 70-cover dining room is minimal, and a central bar with a decent selection of wines (over 200, no less) on display adds space for a further 50 diners.
Boxer has previously described the restaurant’s cuisine as “primal, simple, honest, delicious, and accessible”. Split into ‘shellfish’; ‘raw and small’; ‘hearth’; and sides and desserts, dishes arrive as they are ready and are suited to sharing. From the shellfish section, a cherrystone clam with Sichuan oil and coriander is punchy and unusual. Raw and small plates include the likes of mackerel with soy butter and dandelion; grilled leek with almond cream; and sweet grilled onions with tuna bone caramel. Highlights from the hearth section include Dexter bavette with a dusting of cured bone marrow; and black bream with fennel, lemon and caper berries. A side of grilled hispi cabbage is brushed with pork fat and covered in a pile of XO crumbs.
An impressive wine list is on offer, with a few unusual appearances including oxidative wines that are lightly carbonated upon ordering. The 200 or so bottles are divided into regions, with an extra ’50 under 50 section’ that many will find useful. A short list of aperitifs includes a Kamm & Sons spritz; Lillet Blanc vermouth; and Suze, the French liqueur made from gentian root.
And another thing
The restaurant takes its name from the parish of St Leonard’s Shoreditch, in which it is situated. St Leonard himself was supposedly the patron saint of prisoners and those in shackles, which Boxer jokes is “quite apt when you consider the nature of a restaurant’s kitchen”.