On the table: Levan
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Just like people, some restaurants are so busy trying to be someone or something, that they forget to have fun. There’s no such risk at Levan, the second opening from the team behind Salon in Brixton, where everything seems designed to offer sheer, effortless joy.
On my visit, I perched at the sun-spangled countertop, gazing out onto Blenheim Place, a short stumble from Peckham Rye station. A glass of Indigène Crémant de Jura – a subtly rich sparkling wine from iconic producer, Tissot – slipped down while we tried to decide which dishes could be resisted. Records and bottles line the shelves, while a relaxed crowd seemed to be unhurriedly working their way through lunch.
Even the wine list is cheerful: “welcome to the party,” it declares. And what a riotous event it is. There’s no shortage of London’s cult natural wine names, and they’re all good ones, scattered between plenty of wines that you just really want to drink. Almost half the list is a paean to the Jura and its trendy, food-friendly wines (including a page dedicated to two of its most famous and fashionable producers, Ganevat and Tissot).
First up was a generous bowl of sourdough baguette with some of the lightest and creamiest whipped butter I’ve ever tried. Comté fries are every bit as good as they sound – served with a dollop of saffron aioli, a Jenga-shaped tower of artery-clogging yet deceptively moreish goodness. It was the mushroom tempura, however, that I couldn’t get enough of – the sesame vinaigrette cutting through feather-light umami bombs.
A pillow of burrata was spiked with chilli and lemon, topped with a tousled mop of shaved fennel. A so-so-sounding plate of Marinda tomatoes was mesmerising: the salty tang of sea purslane and ponzo – little pools of citrus-and-soy intensity – cut through the sweetness of perfectly ripe fruit. Intensely spiced boudin noir came slathered in a teriyaki-esque sauce with a pert soy-cured egg yolk on top; the bittersweet freshness of endive balanced the dish’s all-out decadence.
A single tantalisingly juicy yet crisp tentacle of octopus came curled on a plate with the season’s best Jersey royals. The main event – which my greed has left me almost too full to tackle – was a potato pie, classed up with wild mushrooms and Vacherin, the sort of concoction that would do Calum Franklin (and any northern nan) proud.
As we polished off a bottle of one of Tissot’s single-vineyard Chardonnays – the high-toned, nutty, pithy yet ripe 2016 Les Graviers, a scoop of unbeatably pure mango sorbet arrived, with a hit of rum and lime. After all that came the pièce de resistance – a tarte tatin which has changed me for life. Unbelievably light layers of puff flaked beneath caramel-laden apples – a dish that declared its simple buttery richness with no shame.
I’m only a touch embarrassed to say that we ordered cheese afterwards, and a couple of brilliant glasses of red – an ethereal Trousseau and pinpoint Beaujolais from the ever-reliable Jean-Marc Burgaud. Every mouthful at Levan had made me just that little bit happier – if I lived closer, I could easily develop an unhealthy dependency on its legal high. We were last out, tumbling onto the streets of Peckham, giddy with the pleasure of a really good meal.
What we drank:
- Crémant de Jura, Indigène, Stéphane & Bénédicte Tissot, Brut
- 2016 Arbois, Les Graviers, Chardonnay, Stéphane & Bénédicte Tissot, Jura
- 2017 Beaujolais-Villages, Les Vignes de Lantignié, Jean-Marc Burgaud
- 2016 Arbois, Cuvée des Docteurs, Poulsard, Lucien Aviet, Jura
Levan, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, London SE15 4QL