38-42 St John Street, Farringdon, EC1M 4AY; tel: 020 7490 9240, www.esilondon.com
Cost in restaurant per person without wine: £70
WALKING into the Eastside Inn, the first impression was unfortunate. The rain that was falling hard outside was also falling inside, and we had to step round three champagne buckets to get to the reception desk. To be fair, this is probably the first time since it opened a couple of months ago that they have had to contend with serious rain. But their choice of water-catching receptacles felt fitting – as it was surely meant to.
There are two parts to this restaurant, a fine-dining room designed to reel in a Michelin star – chef Bjorn Van Der Horst won one at La Noisette, the Gordon Ramsay-owned restaurant he ran, and before that was at the two-starred Greenhouse in Mayfair – and a less formal bistro at the back.
The swisher room is slick, smart enough to take a contact and informal enough for a romantic evening. It would be easy to spend a lot of money here. There’s a Menu Classic, which costs £70 for three courses, including foie gras with espresso syrup and amaretto foam, glazed veal sweetbread with onion bhaji, basmati rice and cashews, and turbot with snail confit.
Arriving just after midday, we opted for the business lunch, which they promise to serve in less than an hour (they managed it, just). My friend’s starter of soft-boiled hen’s egg with mushroom fricassee, broth and fine herbs was “autumnal and earthy”, while my feta and beetroot salad was a thing of beauty (rare, for something involving ugly old beetroots), with thin slices of pickled beet, along with more substantial roasted lumps. Taste-wise, it was a lovely balance of salt, root and tart.
One main was a roasted plaice with creme fraiche potatoes and sauce Veronique – ie, with grapes and peanuts – which was picture pretty, the fish beautifully cooked and the sauce buttery and subtly flavoured, with a little piquancy from the paprika. I had an absolutely stellar beef faggot with deep, nourishing flavours, accompanied by mash so creamy that you could almost have smeared it on a scone, and a winey sauce that put some Ready Brek-style glow into my bones.
We didn’t have wine, but the list is long and with a French focus. There are lots of opportunities for spending three – and sometimes four – figures.
To finish off, I had the peach carpaccio with vanilla ice-cream and lemon cake. The peach, which came as a large gooey square, reminded me of children’s-party jelly and the cake was moist and comforting, although the ice cream could have been a little more vanilla-y. The playful theme was mirrored in the cheese plate, which as well as gruyere, Roquefort and something Brie-like from Hampshire featured a triangle of La Vache qui Rit, the French equivalent of Dairylea.
The main dining room, while nice, was maybe a little formal for a quick lunch. Or maybe it just felt austere because it was empty when we went on Monday lunchtime. Next time I’ll try the bistro. With its high seats and tables, and its bar section, it looks ideal for an informal feed – with a main of cassoulet, magret of duck, or beef casserole and a glass of wine you could just about eat for under £20.
Eastside Inn is a truly classy restaurant, the fine dining is sheer quality and fits in perfectly in this area – meat Mecca St John is practically next door, while Vinoteca, Club Gascon and Smiths of Smithfield are round the corner. In fact, it more than fits in, it raises the tone. I just hope they sort out the roof.
In a nutshell: Classy, modern fine-dining in the main restaurant, and a good-looking bistro with a tempting menu. Ideal for clients or contacts – or at a pinch, a date.