Trendy warehouse style restaurant on St Johns Street, serving up some tasty contemporary European dishes. That’s if the kitchen hasn’t run out of them.I never made much use of top table in the past, because they didn’t used to list many restaurants which pushed my buttons. However, as the credit crunch tightened it’s choke hold, heavier weight restaurants started popping up on it’s pages. I was browsing top table a few weeks back and was surprised to see The Larder on there, offering a 50% off discount. I’d walked past the Larder on many occasions before, admiring its expansive dimly lit space, and its funky exposed pipes and distressed white cement pillars. From the outside, it looked like a place I would enjoy eating.
So, I booked the top table offer, which was 50% off a selected list of starters and main courses. Even though the offer was limited to a section of the a la carte version, the dishes all sounded very appealing.
To start, two of us opted for the Sichuan salt and pepper squid. Unfortunately, they had run out, so instead we settled for other things. The spinach and ricotta ravioli had a pleasant creamy filling, but their outer shells were a little too taut, and almost rubbery. The more daring tower of hash brown, black pudding and scotch egg on the other hand got us excited. The crisp fried scotch egg had a well seasoned layer of minced meat, which encased a delicately soft quail’s egg. Underneath the scotch egg were a few slices of gritty black pudding, whose intense flavours combined beautifully with the bed of buttery hash brown. The smoked haddock risotto was devilishly creamy. Often risotto in restaurants are served up as a mushy mound of gloop, and their broth is equally as uninspiring. The risotto at the Larder however was immaculate; the cooking of the rice and fish had been timed to perfection, and the sauce was wonderfully rich. Our only complaint was that it was of epic proportions and should have been shared between 2 people. The last starter was the chicken liver parfait. It was beautifully presented but it tasted a little bland and earthy. I never understood why so many restaurants, like the Larder, serve three tiny pieces of toast to accompany such a large slab of parfait or foie gras. Are we supposed to eat the other half of the slab by itself?
For our mains, we first ordered the roast salmon with sauteed scampi and vegetables. They had however run out of scampi, but “could do” the salmon and vegetables instead. We decided to get the salmon, but should’ve asked for a price reduction. Unfortunately, I have developed that very English squeamishness for talking discounts. I desperately need some bargaining lessons from Omid Djalili, or maybe even my mum, a hard-nosed haggler that honed her skills in the streets of her native Colombo. Anyway, despite the lack of scampi, the roast salmon was excellent. Perfectly crisp on the outside, and a very moist and caramelized centre. Next requested was the pork belly, but unbelievably, they had run out of this as well. As second choice, we went for the confit of duck, with king scallops and bak choi. We were not surprised when the waitress announced that the king scallops were not available but could instead be substituted with king prawns. Despite the shortcomings of The Larder quartermaster, the dish was excellent. The duck fell unceremoniously from the bone, and tasted exquisite when dabbed in the rich reduction and enveloped in a piece of crunchy bak choi. 2 of us ordered the braised shoulder of lamb (all bits of which they had in stock, hoorah!!), which was accompanied by spiced aubergine, cracked wheat and tzatziki. This was not the prettiest of dishes plated up, but heavens did it top the taste charts that evening. The lamb was screaming eat me; it was incredibly tender and flavoursome. The spiced aubergine and reduction, which had a slight chilli undertone was the yin to the yang of the mild and refreshing tzatziki. Looking at the plate, one could be forgiven for thinking that this dish might cause some sensory overload, because it was piled with lots of different elements, but it all just worked wonderfully together.
For dessert we shared the chocolate fondant and the sticky toffee pudding. The chocolate fondant was like a mini mountain whose hard exterior was solid chocolate cake. After cracking open the exterior, we were transfixed by the rich chocolate lava which flowed out. It was fabulous together with the vanilla ice cream. The chocolate fondant was good, but it was the sticky toffee pudding that blew us away. Sticky toffee pudding is often too dense and dry in the middle, but this one was light, wobbly and very moist. Every bite of the pudding was soaked in lashings of toffee sauce. We wolfed this down in a matter of minutes.
Dinner at the Larder was 30 pounds per person, including tip for the top table offer (which covered selected starters & and mains), plus desserts and a bottle of wine. Despite their weakness in the stocktaking department, overall we were very happy with the quality of the food that was served. Even if the top table offer does not exist anymore, I would definitely recommend a visit.
www.thelarderrestaurant.com, 91-93 St. John Street, London EC1M 4NU. 020 7608 1558