L’Ami Malo in Spitalfields: Imaginative crêpes full of bold Breton flavours
Located in the back streets of Spitalfields in Artillery Passage lies L’Ami Malo, a restaurant bringing a taste of northwestern French cuisine across the channel. It may not be immediately apparent but L’Ami Malo is, in fact, a crêperie – just not as you know it. In short, French duo Emilien Lesourd and Vincent Couvreur have been on a mission with chef Williams Guillemot to modernise perceptions of the traditional crêpe and serve up a contemporary alternative.
Before diving into the food, a pre-dinner drink is highly recommended at Le Moulin, a secluded speakeasy bar at the back of the restaurant. Shrouded in intrigue, you can already tell that this probably isn’t your typical bar. You can expect to be served a range of regional wines, French cocktails –including the François Sour, a regional take on the pisco sour – and speciality ciders imported all the way from Brittany (and not currently served anywhere else in the UK).
Once you’re ready to tuck in, one glance at the menu suggests that there is an element of surprise to each dish. The main ingredient running through every plate is buckwheat – which is conveniently gluten-free and packed with health benefits. To start, we had the maki rolls – not a typical item on a French menu. All was soon to be revealed though, as an array of fillings – including Smoked Salmon with capers and crème fraîche, Ham Hock with gherkin and piccalilli, and Avocado with tomato salsa, cashew nuts and sour cream – were carefully wrapped in crêpes to mimic the Japanese rolls. These were beautifully presented and a great way to get the taste buds going – a favourable alternative to the traditional Asian classic.
The mains courses were split into mains and galettes;– we went for a dish from each: the Cod Wrapped in Buckwheat and the Confit Duck Leg. I was eager to try the fish, mainly to see how it would work as a galette and also because it seemed somewhat experimental. The cod was salty, full of flavour and neatly packed into a crispy buckwheat crêpe exterior. It was accompanied by delicately braised fennel, new baby potatoes, glazed carrot and chorizo sauce, making this a surprisingly hearty and tasty dish.
The duck confit was as expected: extremely tender meat and crisped to perfection on the outside without being laden with fat. This was accompanied by braised red cabbage wrapped in a crêpe, a caramelised pear, tenderstem broccoli and red wine jus. The pairing of the braised cabbage and caramelised fruit made this dish overly sweet at times, and the red wine jus could have benefitted from a hint more punch, but overall, the composition was impressive.
You’ll definitely want to save room for dessert as no indulgence was spared. We shared a selection of puddings which included the Vanilla Cheesecake with baked Dutch rhubarb, skilfully finished with pieces of crispy crêpe. There was the Dark Chocolate Delice with buckwheat nougatine, griottine cherries and pistachio ice cream – which was incredibly moreish.
Then came the lemon soufflé and blueberries, nestled in a single crêpe, with a light and fluffy consistency and tang of citrus to finish. And finally, L’Ami Malo’s take on the crêpe suzette, arguably the pièce de résistance of the lot, – and the perfect way to end an incredible dinner.
Aside from beautifully prepared food, what really made the whole experience memorable was the attention to detail and composition of the dishes. If you’re looking for imaginative crêpes full of inventive twists and bold French flavours, L’Ami Malo is the place to be.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Matthew Pull
To book a table at L’Ami Malo, 14 Artillery Passage London E1 7LJ, call 020 7247 8595 or visit their website here.