Everything at St Leonards is just that little bit extra – the food, the service, the wine.
But what stands out immediately is the impressive kitchen setup: an army of chefs whizzing around, each keeping tabs on their respective stations. At the open fire pit, a burly bearded man is carving slabs of lamb and pork while other cuts of meat cook on the roaring open flame.
Beside it reigns the seafood section where everything seems more calm, clean and paired back. Even the bright lighting in this space starkly contrasts against the flame-lit meaty section next to it.
Unshucked oysters lay on a big bed of ice facing the dining area, and all fishy bits lay behind the pass. From it comes delicately plated cuts of tuna, clams and mussels.
In the distant corner is yet another more traditional looking part of the kitchen from which a whole host of other food is streaming out. It’s a mightily impressive set up.
Once settled into the surroundings, you’ll have the chance to peruse the slightly unusual menu – again, everything is done a little differently here. At the top you’ll find a list of snacks, including the extra special Russian Oscietra caviar dish served with homemade bone marrow waffles.
They even take a modern twist on the classic happy hour by offering caviar at half price at lunchtimes on Mondays and Saturdays. It’s a proper treat yo’ self deal.
The name of the restaurant is printed right in the centre of the menu, with all other subsections scattered around it, split up into shellfish, small and raw plates, food from the hearth, sides, and desserts.
Get into the swing of things with the oysters, which dressed come dolloped with pureed English grapes, cucumber and shiso. It’s a fresh and slightly sweet twist. It pairs well with the flamed oyster, which itself is covered in beef drippings, green tomatoes and horseradish. This one is all about the umami flavours.
The raw tuna with grapefruit, blackberry and black cabbage is also a huge standout. The finely chopped and fried cabbage gives off a smoky flavour which is cut by the sour and juicy grapefruit. Somehow this doesn’t overpower the raw tuna which shines through at the end. It’s perfectly balanced.
And while the subtle, fresh and quite summery fish dishes are amazing, we couldn’t help but drool a little when looking over at the meat section of the kitchen. Diners can choose an entire challans duck, monkfish, or a whole kilo of sirloin steak to share – these will certainly impress any client, friend or relative lucky enough to be out with you.
But the lamb with parsnips and malt rye is the unexpected champion here. Chefs purposely overcook the parsnips to make them super caramelised. This sweetness cuts through the rich meaty sauce pooled on to the plate. Again, it’s a little twist on the usual roast lamb you’d get elsewhere.
We recommend pairing this with a whole side of roasted cabbage – one of our very favourite dishes at St Leonards. It is topped with a crunchy XO crumb, cooked in pork fat to make it extra savoury and hearty, is packed full of flavour, and tears apart like a good slow cooked meat.
Finish things off by ordering fromage frais dessert with plums and meringue – St Leonards’ take on an Eton mess. Then, if you have room, you must order the sexy salted caramel and cherry tart with homemade cardamom ice cream. Rich and silky – enough said.
Be sure to get the sommelier over to the table throughout the night as well. They’ll pair each of your courses with the perfect glass of wine or cocktail – they know what they’re doing so trust the recommendations.
Those who like a more traditional style of cooking – a simple roast beef with vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy – will not be so satisfied here. These guys are leaps and bounds beyond that.
They use simple and fresh ingredients in a whole new way, constantly surprising diners with each new creation. St Leonards does different, not for the sake of it, but because its want to challenge guests and give them something that extra bit special.
And they do it oh so well.
70 Leonard Street EC2A 4QX