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A Restaurant with an Ethos – Cub, Hoxton:
Intrigued by the title? I was – especially as I’d been invited to try the food and drink pairing set menu which comprises several small courses of food with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to complement. In my head the concept of ‘luxury ‘ generally contradicts ‘sustainable’ , though I know technically there’s no reason why it should.
‘Cub follows a simple premise of bringing people together through great food and drink. In our home on Hoxton Street in East London, we’ll set you up with delicious stuff that makes your mind and belly happy. Our set menu is the best way to experience this; some courses are food, some drink and some… a mixture of the two. Or you can just do à la carte. Boozeless options available too.’
Set behind a rather scruffy door in deepest darkest Hoxton, Cub is something of a contrast to Mr Lyan’s award-winning bar, Dandelyan. That one is off the lobby of the ultra-luxurious Mondrian London hotel, in what was the old Sea Containers Building, with great river views and award-winning cocktails. Cub is though, is something rather different – a partnership between Mr Lyan (Ryan Chetiyawardana) and chef Douglas McMaster from Brighton’s zero-waste restaurant, Silo. And, for me eating out is generally associated just a little too much with excess. As my hips will testify.
Despite that, I was a little concerned about the cocktail side of things – six full-sized and alcoholic drinks would see me well and truly off my bar stool – but actually, as my companion assured me, the drinking element is dainty and restrained without being in any way compromised. Similarly, as I discovered, the food leaves you feeling comfortably full without being over heavy. And, although this isn’t a vegetarian/vegan restaurant I am pretty sure everything on the menu for us was vegetarian and most of it vegan too. I didn’t miss the meat or fish and I did enjoy the wealth of unusual British ingredients, foraged and farmed.
We settled down with a warming cup of tea while our food was prepared.
And of course, starting with a tiny glass of Krug Grande Cuvee with a water jelly wasn’t a bad opener.
A plate of what looked like sushi appeared. Celeriac and sea truffle, a British seaweed that tastes like a salty white truffle served in a little roll and wafers of Jerusalem artichoke topped with cured beetroot and pickled horseradish cream. All delicious and gone in a trice.
Next, a rather more substantial dish of brined fennel served with crab apple, green juniper oil and nigella seed. This was paired with a dandelion infused Belvedere vodka with foraged pineapple weed and conference pear garnish. I’m a new convert to the gastronomic wonders of brined vegetables, so I shall be trying to brine my own fennel at home, though I suspect I’ll skip the green juniper oil;)
Everyone’s favourite dish, a small cup of umami-rich broth made from kelp and fungus, was served with bread from a local baker in Hackney and homemade aged butter.
A glass of Domaine Giachino Jacquere 2017 from Piedmont was a great palate cleanser and very refreshing.
Next up, a rather beautiful concoction of salsify and pickled elder with leek treacle and elderflower jus which was fresh and delicious.
Chateclair Amazake was a homemade low alcohol apple sake type drink, served with Bruichladdich and green olive. I’m not a great whisky fan but served this way, it was a delicious and fresh cocktail that complemented the food perfectly.
I also rather liked the next dish of fava bean, miso, winter savory and ewe’s curd topped with a roasted carrot and served with sloe juice. I’m not sure I was convinced by our server’s claim that this was a meat substitute but then, I’d rather have a veggie burger that tastes of vegetables than one which pretends to be beef.
A pretty delicate glass of rare tea was served with a plum that had been compressed in whisky. The glutton in me would have liked a whole plate of plums, but this is not the place for excess, rather for immaculate and carefully presented dishes that tease the senses and tantalise the taste-buds.
Roasted pumpkin seed came with a creamy iced pumpkin seed white caramel butter, filled with a fresh Douglas fir reduction.
The meal was rounded off Italian style with a delicious Limoncello of Amalfi lemon with lemon leaf and lemon balm. Then, tiny rich cacao husk jelly squares (apparently made from the waste left by a local chocolatier) were served with my coffee.
Somehow, this complexity worked brilliantly and every dish was delicious, well balanced and well placed. I left clutching the restaurant’s reminder that they have an ethos
‘Sustainable living doesn’t have to be about sacrifice, and luxury doesn’t have to be about waste. We think the right choices can make a huge difference, and help rebuild our beat up food systems; farming can be about deliciousness rather than yield – there’s heaps mad herbs being grown in our stashes!’
And have wondered ever since if, in twenty years time, this is how all dining out will be…
153 Hoxton St,
Hoxton, London N1 6PJ
Looking for something completely different? We also recommend Via Emilia, serving regional Italian food at budget prices, just off Hoxton Square