Fennel Pollen (II) // Cobnut - Lyle's
Lyle’s - London
Situated in the Tea Building in Shoreditch, the mid-20th century Industrial design building creates the perfect setting for a restaurant celebrating seasonal British produce. Lyle’s clean cooking style is reflected in its modern, yet uncomplicated interiors. The vast windows and high ceilings allow natural light to pour in, filling the room with a warming glow, which is always accompanied by friendly faces that make you feel at home.
With produce-driven dishes at its heart and an emphasis on sourcing local ingredients, the restaurant serves a daily changing set menu in the evening, and a small plates menu at lunch. More recently, they have started offering a bar menu as well in the evening for those after a more casual experience dinning at the bar, certainly a welcoming addition for those like myself, who can never make it to their weekday lunches.
The seasonality and ever-evolving nature of the menu acts almost like an invitation to its diners, not only to have a taste of what their surrounding land (or sea) has to offer, but also to explore unsuspecting flavour combinations through sampling the best of the seasons.
Sea Bass Head + Fennel Pollen
The first dish features an ingredient that brings us back where we dropped off in the series, fennel pollen. This time, my encounter with it was in a rather contrasting setting, gently laying atop a bold chargrilled sea bass head. Striking as it looks, the flavours that were carried through had a delicate complexity. The fish head was lightly glazed with an apple vinegar, providing acidity with hints of sweetness to juxtapose the rich fish oil that is accentuated through the chargrilling, whilst adding an inviting shine. The speckled fennel pollen brought on a further dimension to the piece, bringing a subtle herbal, anise tone without overpowering.
The uncompromising act of serving the head in its entirety is also a sign of respect to the animal and what nature has to offer. This brings out a strong message about our relationship with food, prompting us to rethink the way we are consuming. Perhaps we shouldn’t be using just a small part of the animal or plant in our cooking, as the modern food industry seem to have led us towards. Although we may be more familiar with certain parts of an ingredient, other parts are equally, if not more flavoursome. One of the things that I, and probably quite a lot of people, look for when dining out is to experience something they have not encountered before. To me, it is part of the learning, not only in navigating through the world of food for enjoyment, but also as part of our understanding and exploration of our relationship with the food system, or even more broadly, the ecosystem that we find ourselves part of. Anyway, I digress.
Cobnut Ice Cream
Moving on to dessert. This dish was as clean as its name suggests, yet carrying an unequivocal elegance, both visually and in taste. The texture of the ice cream was delicate on the palate, echoing the refreshing taste that resembles the juice of a fresh green coconut. Laying on top were slices of fresh cobnuts, providing the textural contrast, as well bringing another dimension through the release of a nutty sweetness with each crunch. The subtleness of the flavour straddles the line of sweet and savoury, a perfect palate cleanser to set you up for the other magical sweet creations that should not be miss.