On the table: Emile
Author: Sophie Thorpe
London’s circuit of residencies and pop-ups is its own scene; a whirlwind of all-star line-ups that demand to be eaten and drunk before they disappear, quite possibly forever. The stress of such a situation – an eternal culinary bat-the-rat – for any dutifully greedy and FOMO-inclined diner is almost too much to comprehend.
Emile is the latest expiry-dated establishment to take the town by storm. A collaboration between Nick Gibson – the man behind one of London’s very best pubs (and one with a great wine list), The Drapers Arms – and Damian Clisby, formerly of Petersham Nurseries, it’s tucked away on the wrong side of Shoreditch’s bustle, and closer to the City’s hustle. But here, in this unlikely locale, is a restaurant that exudes a homeliness.
Somehow it’s like every modern eatery we know – shabby-chic wooden furniture, exposed brick, small plates carefully sourced and simply put together. And yet it also manages, effortlessly, to exceed every expectation.
Crab croquettes normally come in twos, yet – with one simple sweep of generosity – came as a trio for our table of three. Celeriac came shaved like pappardelle, laden with the crunch of hazelnuts, the richness of cep and a layer of fluffy micro-planed Parmesan. Gloriously waxy pink firs with anchovy were a revelation of umami-rich goodness. A carafe of Adi Badenhorst’s Secateurs white – benchmark Chenin Blanc from the Swartland – provided a vibrant counterpoint.
For the mains, we ordered a bottle of Graci’s Etna Rosso; a light, lively crunch of fruit for a dreary day. A handsome and majestic pork chop had perfectly crisped fat, a flawless hunk of meat elevated yet further by a smattering of salty capers and crispy sage. John Dory arrived joyously nude, chilli and dill butter its only dressing. Winter leaves turned out to be a platter of perfectly dressed and gloriously colourful chicory – a bright bite of bitter-freshness.
As for pudding, an Original Bean concoction lay halfway between a mousse and ganache, its decadence cut by a flurry of whipped cream, hazelnuts and praline. A poached pear, with its hunk of home-made ginger nut and vanilla ice cream, was perfect in pretty much every way.
Service throughout was unimpeachable – a gentle hand that knew exactly what you needed and when. Like everything at Emile, it sets you instantly at ease. Every plate balances the elegance and creativity of fine dining with the humble comfort of home cooking – with a modesty that almost glosses over the superiority of the food on show. Rumours have it that a permanent site is on the cards for later this year. Keep everything crossed that they’re true.
What we drank:
- 2019 AA Badenhorst, Secateurs Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa
- 2017 Etna Rosso, Graci, Sicily, Italy