Arthur Hooper’s in London Bridge
One of the wonder of the modern world is the rate at which we consume and subsequently saturate trends. Whilst it took the best part of a decade for chicken kievs and prawn cocktails to become tired fads, now the process can happen in a handful of years, sometimes even months. Small plates are rapidly joining kilner jars, foams and kale as food’s Gangnam Style, to the point where one half expects a minion to tell you to keep calm and carry on eating them.
What makes the trend all the more egregious is that they tend to be cynical little things, glorified amuse bouches slapped on a SkandiHus plate for the best part of a tenner. Either yourself or your wallet is destined to go home feeling depressingly empty. So we were a little tentative about Arthur Hooper’s “small European plates”, right up until Burrata with Samphire and Almonds arrived. A bowl of the creamiest, silkiest, most beautifully delicate burrata, contrasted with crisp stems of salty samphire, melts away any fears. It’s generously portioned, perfectly seasoned, each of its simple flavours harmonising with each other in a way that makes them so very much more than the sum of its parts.
We eagerly move onto slices of gently warmed cured pork belly with well-dressed salad and pickles. Again, simple but effective, the combination of tart pickle and cured meat a classic pairing for a reason.
Lamb and Bulgur Meatballs follow, served in a rich tomato sauce and cut through with an ample serving of yoghurt. The bulgur wheat adds a tremendous depth of flavour and meltingly soft texture that’s ideal with the fattiness of the lamb.
Cornish spring greens, with chard and chilli are perhaps the least interesting thing that we eat, solid and dependable but they could do with something else. The chilli is largely unnoticeable, ever so often adding a little spike of heat but generally overpowered by the earthiness of the greens. We finish with a Ricotta Cheesecake, with rhubarb and orange compote. A far cry from the fatty, saccharine cheesecakes that too often curse our tables, it balances the tang of rhubarb nicely with a creamy ricotta base. The orange here is almost floral, perfumed citrus that eases what might otherwise be a jagged contrast between fruit and dairy with admirable ease. A almost syrupy sauternes was an obvious pairing, but its heady blend honey and apricot was nonetheless enjoyable.
Those words sum Arthur Hooper’s up rather nicely in fact. The entire thing feels relaxed and confident, revelling its own simplicity. With the riches of Borough Market on its doorstep, it’s able to find the best seasonal ingredients and present them to diners without so much as breaking its stride. It might not be quite as refined as some of the modern British riffs on the same idea, but the prices are eminently more affordable.
Which is probably why the places is packed on a rainy Wednesday evening, and absolutely buzzing. Everyone seems to be enjoying the simple joy of the food and service, and we can’t blame them. We enter with cynical minds and leave with smiles, full stomachs and a desire to come back. In this industry, is there any higher praise?★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Masters
To book a table at Arthur Hooper’s, 8 Stoney Street London SE1 9AA, call 020 7940 0169 or visit here.