Pickled Fred in Spitalfields
Pickled Fred. I received the same look from everyone I mentioned the name of the restaurant to. That’s no bad thing, if you remember it, what matters is what you think of it.
The Asian-inspired menu is divided into snacks, small plates and flatbreads, and everything comes as it’s ready. This is definitely the kind of place that benefits from going in a group as the menu is pleasingly concise, so trying everything between three or four people shouldn’t be a problem.
We started with some cocktails, which were without question all of excellent quality, with everything we tried being delicious, but also novel without being gimmicky. A Rum Arabica, containing Plantation 3 rum, coffea arabica and chocolate bitters is essentially a clear take on an espresso martini and it is delicious, managing to pack a punch but in a light, modern package. A Smoking Goat is equally impressive – tequila, mezcal, pineapple, sweet basil and agave – another light cocktail but paired with an unexpected smokiness and sweetness on the finish. Finally, a Me in the House is very good as well, the mixture of rye whisky and campari balancing each other well, each tempering the other.
The Jackfruit Scotch Egg – something of a signature for the restaurant – tastes excellent although not especially of jackfruit, and yet the whole thing is somehow bizarrely meaty, with the fruit breaking down into an almost pulled pork texture. So tastes like jackfruit? I’m not so sure. But tastes excellent? Certainly. The satay flatbread was both delicious, and also deceived you into assuming there’s chicken involved, a hangover from an unbroken mental connection between chicken and satay.
Chang Mai Pork Patties have a fairly unexciting flavour and were both a bit overcooked, leaving them somewhat tough and dry. The pickled peppered cucumber that accompanied them being the more interesting element. A Roasted Cauliflower with ras el hanout, tahini and pomegranate is nice, but the cauliflower itself is lacking enough roasted flavour, having a more boiled texture, which is a shame as the dish has real potential.
A mackerel in a dry red curry was cooked perfectly and the accompanying beetroot worked well. This isn’t trying to be a fine-dining restaurant but nevertheless, after cooking, I think removing the wet mackerel skin would be a small burden on the kitchen and would certainly improve the eating experience. This was perhaps reminiscent of much of the menu. Sparks of excellence dotted amongst more average elements. The grilled octopus was cooked without fault, with a great flavour and phenomenal texture; however, the harissa-marinated chickpeas that were served alongside didn’t really add much to the dish, with the pickled red onion and preserved lemon providing plenty of flavour and acting as a foil to the octopus.
The desserts left us rather split. A Coconut Milk and Turmeric Pannacotta with mango coulis and crystalised ginger had a good flavour, but a graininess to the texture which was slightly unappealing, and the large pieces of crystalised ginger on top looked a bit clumsy and made for awkward eating. They were a necessary addition to the dish, but dicing them up would help the dish both look and eat better. On the other hand, the Apple and Sesame Fritters were almost excellent, light and not oily at all. Nevertheless, I would expect more apple flavour if being sold as apple fritters. The sichuan pepper salted caramel that accompanied was good, but much like the apple, any taste of sichuan pepper eluded me.
There were a few duds in the main meal, but those issues require easy to remedy tweaks rather than out and out changes, and the cocktails were consistently some of the best I’ve had. The desserts would be very good with some minor changes.
Pickled Fred sits in the price bracket you’d expect of £20-25 a head, but cocktails will obviously quickly push the price up. With an interesting menu, excellent cocktails, and a reasonable price point, this restaurant is well on its way. With just a little more focus on some finer details, it could easily go from good to great.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Matthew Pull
To book a table at Pickled Fred, 61 Hanbruy Street London E1 5JP, call 020 7392 8822 or visit the website here.