Locals will know the Light Bar for its epic loft parties and raves back in the early 2000’s. It was the place to be before Shoreditch was taken over by City folk, driving the creatives further out.
Now, the City workers have well and truly won the battle for Shoreditch. And the area has lost a lot of what made it so special. But, thankfully, places like the Light Bar are transforming their spaces for a modern clientele, all the while respecting and celebrating the area’s history.
The new owners, Morten Jensen & Darren Collins, see themselves as creating a new chapter in this landmark building’s long legacy. And they’ve done a damn good job at doing so.
Physically, the building retains a whole heap of its old character. Exposed brickworks adorn all the walls and the loft’s wooden ceiling remains too. They’ve just added a bunch of lights, black steel, and a bright new open kitchen.
The warehouse vibe remains. Just in a more refined way, split across three floors. It may sound cheesy, but the soul of the old rave warehouse is still there – and continues to be celebrated through their menu.
Cocktails are named after old club nights, DJs and friends. And each cocktail comes with its own little tale about the Light Bar’s history.
It’s a nice nod to what came before them. Teaching customers of Shoreditch’s underground roots and creative beginnings.
And beyond that, the drinks are banging. Great care has been given to the drinks menu – unique cocktails which aren’t going to confuse your pallet too much. Nor will they be too sickeningly sweet.
Whether you order the perfect gin martini off the menu or go for one of their own creations, you’ll be well and truly sorted. Just tell the waiters what you’re usually into and they’ll bring you what you need.
Then there’s the food. The most important bit. These guys are right on trend when it comes to making modern European grub. They focus on organic, seasonal, sustainably grown and locally sourced produce – even getting some vegetables and salads from the chef’s mum’s own garden.
This is a great personal touch. It’s something you’d be hard pressed to find in any City of London restaurant.
And the Light Bar’s food is organised in a really simple way. You’ve got your bar snacks which are leaps and bounds above your usual nuts and crisps. Think really good quality smoked and cured meats with homemade pickles, charred potato bread with whipped butter, and beef sliders. All winners.
Then, you’ve got your usual starters and mains – which can either be ordered in a traditional way, or you can share them all tapas style. Dealer’s choice!
We were especially big fans of the grilled mackerel dish served with a fresh Panzanella salad, some smoked roe and a really punchy aioli. They didn’t mess around with flavours too much here – letting all of the top-notch produce speak for itself – especially the mackerel.
We were also obsessed with the Light Bar’s lamb rump main. It was cooked to perfection and paired with one of the best tasting salsa verdes we’ve ever had – thanks to the addition of macerated anchovies.
This salty and herby sauce beautifully cuts through the buttery fat on the meat. This was a standout.
But we were a little underwhelmed by the plaice dish. Sadly, this delicate fish had been battered and deep fried. Most of the fish’s flavour was lost because of this. You really just tasted the oil, like a frozen fish you get form the shops. It was clearly a decent plaice, but it felt really cheap.
We really wish they hadn’t cooked it the way they did, but it wasn’t all bad. It was served in a delicious fish broth full of clams, peas and asparagus – if we had just been given this, we’d have been very happy.
But desserts brought us home with a big win. The fresh and seasonal strawberry and miso ice cream tasted like heaven. It wasn’t too sweet. And it was clearly made from real strawberries.
But the standout dessert came in the form of their rice pudding. It was topped with slightly charred apricots and a homemade apricot ice cream.
While the strawberry ice cream packed a flavour punch, everything in this dish was more muted. Simple and tasty. You weren’t overwhelmed by all the favours in the bowl – it all just washed over your pallet with ease. A really nice and easy way to top everything off.
The whole Light Bar menu is designed so that you can come to the Light bar just for a few drinks and then decide to add as much food as you like. Start off with a few cocktails and bar snacks, before being tempted by starters, mains and eventually desserts. Go as far down the menu as you like – ordering whatever takes your fancy.
Everything is really well designed here. Eat good food. Drink great booze. And receive stellar service – always attentive, but still nice and relaxed. They’ve got the perfect recipe for a successful City fringe restaurant and bar – pleasing the Square Mile workers as well as the East London hipsters.
233 Shoreditch High Street E1 6PJ