Plate in Old Street: Simple ingredients cooked with finesse
Known for its creative hubs and globally acclaimed restaurants, East London reserves exquisite food wonders. On the first floor of a sleek and strikingly geometric building visible from the Old Street roundabout, Plate – the creation of French chef Arnaud Stevens – offers delicious casual dining accompanied by excellent drinks.
With an in-house mixologist, there was little surprise that we were to sample some truly delicious cocktails. As suggested by the staff, we first opted for a refreshing and sharply citric Naked Negroni. Our second pick was La Vie en Rose, made with a lighter, sparkling strawberry-flavoured prosecco. Later in the dinner, a more experimental concoction reached our table: the New Old-fashioned, a drink to be enjoyed in small sips, made strong by Japanese Whiskey and Hellfire. Turning next to the Mediterranean, the Italian Remedy was a delight to have with dessert, made from Fernet Branca and Benedictine and finished with a few drops of Angostura, which provided an intense aromatic note.
The selection of bread really struck a chord with our mouths. Soft sourdough, wild mushroom brioche and subtle chestnut bread showed off the bakery talents of the kitchen. Where there is bread, there is butter, and in the accompanying trio, the Modenese vinegar option – topped with puffed crispy peanuts – was simply mind-blowing.
This first serving was an introduction to the winning features of Plate: the quality and fresh cooking of the ingredients – all sourced from farmers around London – the on-the-day preparation enhancing flavours and preserving the delicacy of the different components.
The colourful starters caught our attention even before the fork had touched the food. Green was the common denominator of both the Norfolk Asparagus and Nutbourne Heritage Tomato. In the former, the sweetness of the vegetables was strengthened by the hazelnuts and pork cheek; in the later, the delightfully fresh lemon ricotta added the right sour note to the slightly smoked tomato, which arrived in three savoury varieties.
After unashamedly cleaning the crockery of any traces of food, we would have been forgiven for starting to feel full; luckily, the main courses arrived in the perfect portions to leave some space for the sweet finale. The Parmesan Gnocchi were a marvellous surprise. Far from the tradition of very soft pasta exuding sauce, the gnocchi were neither drowning in liquid nor dry, but rather smoothly enveloped in almond puree and stir-fried with tender sprouting broccoli. The tangy cheese undertone perfectly complemented the overall taste, marking the graceful influence of French cuisine in an otherwise stout dish.
A Salted Atlantic Hake created a contrast from the first bite. The nicely done fish lay on vanilla mash, surrounded by baby leek and courgette; however, the extra salty taste was rather unbalanced, preventing us from relishing the velvety core of the hake. They were pleasantly partnered with two sides with a British touch that made them lighter: Agata Potato with Crème Fraiche and “Koffman” Cabbage with Pancetta.
The conclusion of the meal was unforgettably blissful. The Coffee Brûlée arrived in the shape of a hill of espresso ice cream, incorporating chocolate ganache and crumbled amaretto topped with a semi-transparent brûlée. With the cream melting as soon as it reached the mouth, this dessert was an enjoyable and refreshing indulgence, beaten by our final selection only in terms of presentation – the eyes, among the other senses, were delighted with this closing dish. The Valrhona Caramelia Chocolate Mousse, a smooth, small hemisphere, was brought together with a squared piece of pain perdu, both diagonally decorated with a filament of Swiss chocolate. The more solid texture of the former component matched perfectly the spongy consistency of the latter, and it is not difficult to imagine what a good marriage chocolate and caramel can produce.
From start to finish, Plate offers a luscious dining experience, rediscovering the mastery and gratification of food that avoids being over-complicated, opting instead for a more natural approach: simple ingredients expertly combined.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Maria Barrios and Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Plate, 151-157 City Road Hoxton London EC1V 1JH, call 020 3837 3102 or visit their website here.