London Restaurant Festival 2016: The Devonshire Square restaurant-hopping tour
The London Restaurant Festival is certainly an interesting venture. Encompassing everything from street food to fine dining, it’s looking to highlight the best of London’s incredible restaurant scene at every level. So it’s with excitement that we embark on their hopping tour of Devonshire Square, just outside of Liverpool Street. Five hours, five different venues, five different dishes. On paper, it sounds perfect.
We get off to a fairly mild start with a selection of Indian appetisers from Cinnamon Kitchen. They’re nice enough, but feel more like something you’d be served at a well-catered dinner party than a special dish. Pitt Cue has no such issue, serving us a beautifully cooked pork cheek, tender and virtually falling apart. The slick of apple sauce it’s served with is a classic combination, but here the usually dynamic duo is taken to a whole new level by the barbecue glaze applied to the crisp fat on the top of the pork. The dish is paired with an exceptionally fruity wine called Wildflower from J Lohr Estates, whose bright acidity helps to cut through all that fat with deft ease.
Kenza opts for a medley of Middle Eastern delights; baba ganoush and hummus are both delicious, if a little meek. The former could have done with a smokier flavour, whilst the latter needed a splash more olive oil. They both benefited immensely from the freshness of an excellent tabouli, its combination of parsley and lemon adding a bright edge that lifts the creamy pastes and fluffy breads until the assembled mouthfuls are far beyond the sum of their parts.
From there, it’s only a short walk to Fish Market, a popular city haunt known, as you might well have guessed from the name, for its fresh seafood. A rich chowder is their dish of choice and it’s hearty stuff, luxuriously creamy and satisfying. It’s lacking a piece of bread or something to contrast it with though, and many diners can’t quite finish a full bowl. An easy going merlot from Cannonball Wineries is provided, but ultimately lacks the acidity needed to really cleanse the palate.
We finish off at the Old Bengal Bar. The strips of steak we’re served are perfectly cooked medium rare, with a good crust and plenty of flavour. A light salad is spiky with citrus dressing, and works well with the heavier meat, but the accompanying new potatoes are sadly over seasoned. Russian River Valley 2013, an excellent Pinot Gris from MacMurray with heavy tones of honey and fig, has no such issues and the bottle disappears with almost alarming alacrity. A beautiful wine, and definitely one we’ll be enjoying again, but probably with tarte au citron rather than steak, which was a bit of an odd pairing.
It rather sums up both the joys and slight disappointments of the Devonshire Square Restaurant-Hopping Tour. The sheer variance keeps things interesting, but at times the event feels incoherent, a muddle of great ideas that could do with a more refined goal or a common theme running throughout the restaurants. With a little refinement, these tours could become a staple of the city’s culinary calendar.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Devonshire Square restaurant-hopping tour is part of the London Restaurant Festival, for further information visit here.